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Mokonyane slams Zondo commission amid Bosasa allegations

As the details of alleged corruption at Bosasa continue to emerge at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has hit out at allegations of her involvement in the scandal.

At the start of the second week of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi’s testimony, Mokonyane became one of the most high-profile names to be pulled into the saga.

In a letter to the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Mokonyane’s lawyer’s criticised the perceived conduct of the commission’s officials and the fact that she was not given notice that she was implicated in Agrizzi’s testimony.

Agrizzi told the commission Mokonyane had received gifts and favours from Bosasa from as early as 2002. These were allegedly made in exchange for her “protection” of the controversial service provider.

Her lawyers further lambasted the commission for the alleged leaks of information contained in Agrizzi’s sworn statement.

Those implicated in Agrizzi’s testimony had not been notified of this because of security concerns. On the first day of Agrizzi’s testimony, it was revealed that he had allegedly received a number of threats on his life in the days leading up to his appearance.

“Our client is of the view that her constitutional right to be heard before the commission resolved to deviate from rule 3.3 [the rule that tasks the commission with notifying implicated persons] denying her access to Mr Agrizzi’s statement has been breached,” Mokonyane’s lawyer’s letter reads.

Mokonyane’s lawyers also raise the fact that the media had asked their client to answer to allegations contained in Agrizzi’s statement before the details of these claims had been revealed in his oral testimony. Statements submitted to the commission are not made public until a witness’s oral testimony has been concluded.

Members of the media had previously landed in hot water with the commission for publishing articles based on statements that were not yet public.

According to the letter, Mokonyane “felt betrayed by the fact that the newspapers … had access to the contents of the affidavit an expected her to respond to such allegation.”

“It is apparent to our client that there are official of the commission who are bent to undermine the integrity of the commission and trump on the rights of implicated persons,” the letter adds.

On Monday, Zondo alluded to his disappointment in the conduct of the media, saying that he would address this in a statement.

Agrizzi told the commission on Monday that towards the end of every year, he was tasked by Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson with seeing to Mokonyane’s Christmas groceries.

This groceries allegedly included 120 cases of cold drinks, four cases of high-quality whiskey, 40 cases of beer, eight lambs, 12 cases of frozen chicken pieces, 200kg of beef and cases of premium liquor.

Agrizzi purported to have been asked to organise funerals, arrange rental vehicles for Mokonyane’s daughter, organise catering for several ANC rallies, provide catering for former president Jacob Zuma’s birthday parties and organise the maintenance of Mokonyane’s houses, all at the minister’s instruction.

But Agrizzi also told the commission that Bosasa’s relationship with Mokonyane rarely furthered the company’s business interests in the form of tenders.

Agrizzi recounted how he confronted Watson about this. “I was getting sick and tired of having to pack money for people. That is the truth,” Agrizzi said of his mounting frustration with having to pay bribes to state officials who were not giving the company “anything in return”.

Of Bosasa’s links to Mokonyane, Agrizzi said: “It was a waste of time and effort to try and corrupt somebody.”

Watson allegedly explained that Mokonyane was powerful and that if he did not do what she wanted, Bosasa would not have protection in averting possible prosecution.

In 2007, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) began investigating Bosasa for alleged improper conduct relating to tenders the company was awarded. The SIU’s 2009 report on the company found that Bosasa officials had paid bribes to former prisons boss Linda Mti and the department of correctional services’ then chief financial officer, Patrick Gillingham, to secure tenders from the department. The report was handed to the National Prosecuting Authority.

Agrizzi later clarified that his testimony, saying when he and Watson first met Mokonyane they realised she was “extremely powerful”. Agrizzi said he and Watson referred to her as the “Energizer Bunny”.

If they had any issues, they would go to her, Agrizzi said.

The hearing of Agrizzi’s testimony continues on Tuesday.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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