'We jumped for Mokonyane' — ex Bosasa employee

Gavin Watson allegedly explained that Nomvula Mokonyane was powerful and that if he did not do what she wanted, Bosasa would not have protection in averting possible prosecution. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Gavin Watson allegedly explained that Nomvula Mokonyane was powerful and that if he did not do what she wanted, Bosasa would not have protection in averting possible prosecution. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture continues on Thursday, with yet another former Bosasa employee expected to take the witness stand.

On Wednesday, the testimonies of former Bosasa employee Frans Vorster and the firm’s former chief financial officer, Andries van Tonder, corroborated aspects of their colleague Angelo Agrizzi’s evidence.

Significantly, Vorster became the second witness to allege that Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane had some role in cementing the monopoly of Bosasa and the power of its politically-connected chief executive Gavin Watson.

“I was told she [Mokonyane] had important political connections, both in the [former president Thabo] Mbeki era and [former president] Jacob Zuma,” Vorster told the commission.

“We were instructed to drop everything when it came to Mokonyane … she probably opened doors for Watson because whatever she wanted, we jumped and dropped everything to attend to the minister and her family.”

Vorster recounted how he was allegedly tasked with arranging a rental car for Mokonyane’s daughter towards the end of 2015.

The Audi A3 was meant to be rented for two weeks, but Mokonyane’s daughter allegedly ended up keeping the car for two months, Vorster said. According to Vorster, Bosasa paid for everything, including the excess for that had to be paid after the minister’s daughter allegedly damaged the car.

“Knowing that previously she had bumped the vehicles ...
I was afraid that she would write off the vehicle,” Vorster said, recounting how he wanted her added as a second driver on the rental account.

Vorster also told the commission that, in the lead up to the 2014 national elections, he was asked to prepare an unused area of the Bosasa offices to accommodate an ANC call centre.

The firm’s IT department set up computers and phone lines for ANC members to use.

“Minister Mokonyane personally drove that process,” Vorster alleged.

During his earlier testimony, Agrizzi told the commission that towards the end of every year, he was tasked by Watson with seeing to Mokonyane’s Christmas groceries.

READ MORE: Mokonyane slams Zondo commission amid Bosasa allegations

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 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”.

Mokonyane has yet to dispute the claims made by Agrizzi and now Vorster, but has criticised the commission for failing to notify her that she was implicated in Agrizzi’s testimony.

Those implicated in Agrizzi’s evidence had not been notified ahead of his testimony because of security concerns. His testimony was kept under wraps because of numerous alleged threats on his life in the lead-up to his appearance before the commission.

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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