COPE MP to ‘back up’ Agrizzi testimony at Zondo commission

After a week of damning allegations against Bosasa by current and former employees, on Friday the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture will hear the evidence of Congress of the People (COPE) MP Dennis Bloem.

Bloem’s testimony will reportedly back up the evidence of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi. In his nine-day testimony, Agrizzi recounted in minute detail Bosasa’s scheme to secure lucrative government tenders through alleged bribery, corruption and money laundering.

Bloem, a former chairperson of Parliament’s correctional services oversight committee, told EWN: “I will approach the Zondo commission to go and testify, to back up what Mr Angelo Agrizzi has said because I was there. I was the chairperson for five years, and I know what Mr Agrizzi is talking about.”

Bosasa, led by its chief executive Gavin Watson, and its associated entities have milked more than R7.2-billion from correctional services since 2003 to date.

READ MORE: The Bosasa tally: R12-billion

In 2008, Bloem opposed then prisons commissioner Vernie Petersen’s notion that said having the prisons built, maintained and run over 25 years by the private sector would be the best option in terms of “value for money, risk transfer and affordability”.

Agrizzi testified that Peterson’s unwillingness to co-operate with Bosasa ultimately led to his downfall. Petersen was transferred to the department of sports and recreation in 2008.

In the wake of Agrizzi’s damning allegations, COPE has been a vocal proponent of Watson’s former “right-hand man”. “Congress of the People welcomes and applaud Agrizzi for his bravery; for coming forward and telling the country about corruption, bribery and money laundering in government and the correctional services,” Bloem told IOL in January.

READ MORE: Union, officials colluded with Bosasa to pressure prisons boss

Bloem joined the party in 2009, in a move which then ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte described as “politically immoral”.

In response to allegations levelled against Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Bloem told IOL: “The conspicuous consumption and the penchant for excessive and expensive lifestyle has been visible for all to see. In fact, it has become a norm and competition among leaders in the party of corruption, the ANC, to show off material assets and expensive alcohol tastes.”

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 firm.

His testimony was later backed up by former Bosasa employee Frans Vorster who 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.”

READ MORE: ‘We jumped for Mokonyane’ — ex Bosasa employee

Mokonyane reportedly intends on disputing the claims 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.
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