Agrizzi maps Bosasa media ties

Angelo Agrizzi (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Angelo Agrizzi (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Bosasa hired media consultants to discredit certain journalists who had written negative reports on the firm, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Monday.

Paul Pretorius SC — the head of the commission’s legal team — asked former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi to elaborate on an allegation that the firm was paying certain journalists to write positive stories about the firm.

READ MORE: ‘Journalists were paid by Bosasa’ — Agrizzi

Last Thursday, Agrizzi told the commission that Bosasa spokesperson Papa Leshabane was allocated R71 000 in cash bribes, part of which was allegedly paid to journalists.

On Monday Agrizzi confirmed that R30 000 of that money was allegedly paid to journalists on a monthly basis. He named writer Pinky Khoabane, a journalist named ‘Ntuli’ and another Eastern Cape-based journalist known only as “Bongs”.

“He was always very evasive in giving me the full names,” Agrizzi said.

Following the allegation, Khoabane tweeted: “I have never met Angelo Agrizzi. I simply reported on his racist rants and his links.
I will make a submission to [the state capture commission].”

When asked why these journalists were paid by the firm Agrizzi said: “At the time Bosasa had been going through a very rough patch in terms of negative reporting by certain journalists,” adding that these journalists would be tasked with writing positive reports on the controversial company.

The other reason for the payments was to get information about a negative stories in the pipeline and how to counteract them, Agrizzi said. These payments allegedly started in 2012.

READ MORE: Bosasa bombshells keep coming

Agrizzi also told the commission that certain media consultants were hired by Bosasa to discredit journalists, including Adriaan Basson and Carien Du Plessis.

He named Benedicta Dube and former Mail & Guardian journalist Stephen Laufer as Bosasa media consultants. Dube was paid R1-million for her services at one point, Agrizzi alleged.

Agrizzi referred to an “in-depth” report done on various journalists, which contained a diagram showing the alleged links between certain journalists and “the Stellenbosch crowd”.

Basson wrote about how Dube allegedly tried to threaten and intimidate him in 2009 for the M&G.

“Dube posed as sympathetic — she warned me Bosasa had commissioned a private investigator to do a report on me and offered to meet me to discuss the ‘bigger” issues behind the story,” Basson wrote at the time.

In a Twitter thread, Basson also alleged that Khoabane “regularly attacks my integrity on this platform. I asked her straight whether Bosasa is paying her. She is yet to respond.”

Following this evidence, Agrizzi also made a brief reference to a recent Sunday Times report which referred to a leaked email about a R100 000 donation that was made by Bosasa to a crowdfunding campaign in support of the SABC 8, who were suspended in 2016 by then chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng for speaking out about censorship at the public broadcaster.

READ MORE: SABC 8 ‘dismayed’ by Bosasa donation claim

According to the email, supposedly sent by Agrizzi to Bosasa chief accountant Carlos Bonifacio, finance employee Jacques van Zyl and former chief financial officer Andries van Tonder, instructions were given for the “strategic” donation to be made to the fund.

The email which was sent to the Sunday Times journalist email stems from an unverified address, Agrizzi said. 

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. Read more from Sarah Smit

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