‘Watson wanted to lobby Zuma for new NPA’ – Agrizzi

Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson planned to lobby former president Jacob Zuma to appoint a new national director of public prosecutions, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Thursday.

During the testimony of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi, a recording of a 2015 conversation between Agrizzi, former prisons commissioner Linda Mti and Watson was played for the commission.

In the recording, Watson is heard practising a discussion he would allegedly have with Zuma. The future discussion would concern installing someone in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) who would be sympathetic to Bosasa in the ongoing investigation into allegedly improper tenders being awarded to the firm by the department of correctional services.

“Now [suspended deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo] Jiba’s been buggered up. [Special director of public prosecutions Lawrence] Mrwebi has also been buggered up okay, in the press. So how do we protect him Mr President? By putting the right person in there. I don’t know who is advising Mr President but you need to make the right decisions now, you haven’t got much time to go,” Watson can be heard saying.

Agrizzi had previously told the commission that Jiba and Mrwebi were being paid by Bosasa, through Mti, in exchange for their co-operation in stymying the mounting case against the firm.

According to Agrizzi, Jiba, codename “Snake”, was being paid R100 000 a month from about 2009. Mrwebi, codename “Snail”, was allegedly being paid R10 000 a month. NPA secretary Jackie Lepinka, who worked with Jiba, was allegedly paid R20 000 a month.

The three would help with shutting down the case, as well as share confidential documents concerning the case with Mti, Agrizzi said. Agrizzi, led by Paul Pretorius SC, took the commission through a list of 15 confidential documents that were handed to Mti and passed on to him.

The recorded meeting allegedly took place amid the tide of negative press against Mrwebi and Jiba. Both are currently the subject of a commission — chaired by former Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro — is looking into their fitness for office. Both have been the subject of a number of scathing rebukes from the courts for how they performed their duties. The inquiry was in its third day of public hearings.

On the first day of the Mokgoro inquiry, Jiba’s counsel, Thabani Masuku SC, reportedly denied Agrizzi’s allegation that Jiba received bribes from Bosasa.

On Thursday, Agrizzi inferred that the conversation with Zuma that Watson was practising did eventually take place.

READ MORE: Jiba never received a bribe, Mokgoro inquiry hears

When Mxolisi Nxasana was prosecutions head, Jiba was charged with perjury and fraud because of statements she made in an affidavit authorising the prosecution of the head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal, Johan Booysen. Booysen went to court to set aside the prosecution and won the case. In his judgment, Judge Trevor Gorven criticised Jiba, saying when she was accused of mendacity, her response was “deafening silence”.

In June 2015, Zuma appointed Shaun Abrahams to replace Nxasana. Months later, Abrahams announced the withdrawal of perjury charges against Jiba and a “reshuffle” of the NPA executive.

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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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