/ 4 February 2019

Zondo commission — Bosasa still in the spotlight?

Ali Gule
(Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

After a number of revelations relating to the Bosasa scandal, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture is set to continue this week.

The commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, will hear the testimonies of two commission investigators and two witnesses on Tuesday. The evidence comes after two weeks of hearings dedicated to Bosasa and its alleged corporate capture of state entities.

Angelo Agrizzi’s nine-day testimony before the commission kicked off a series of bombshell revelations relating to the controversial company. Bosasa’s former chief operating officer alleged that the company secured numerous lucrative state tenders through the ubiquitous bribing of state and government officials.

A recent Mail & Guardian report found that Bosasa amassed an estimated R12-billion in state contracts over the last 15 years.

READ MORE: The Bosasa tally — R12-billion

Agrizzi’s also implicated a number of big names in his explosive testimony.

Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, ANC MP Vincent Smith, former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni, former South African Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane, suspended deputy head of prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) specialised commercial crime unit Lawrence Mrwebi all form part of a long list of people named by Agrizzi.

Agrizzi also alleged that former president Jacob Zuma provided protection to Bosasa as the company came under the scrutiny of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and later the NPA.

Agrizzi’s evidence was followed by a series of testimonies by current and former Bosasa employees who corroborated elements of the earlier evidence.

Bosasa employee Richard le Roux told the commission that Bosasa provided home security upgrades to Mokonyane, Myeni, Smith, ANC MP Thabang Makwetla and ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe.

Le Roux alleged that he and his team were instructed not to wear anything identifying them as Bosasa employees while carrying out the upgrades.

READ MORE: Bosasa CEO instructed me to scrub Zuma footage — employee

The allegations regarding the security upgrades had been in the public domain since 2018.

Mantashe has previously denied that he knew the upgrades were carried out by Bosasa. On Saturday he addressed the allegations again, saying in a tweet: “The Bosasa issue has opened up an avenue for people to attack me in person from different angles. Others are disappointed for me to be associated with [the Bosasa saga], which I apologise to. Others are “Fishers of Corrupt Men”, those will be disappointed. I have to clarify the issue.

The mineral resources minister also reportedly told journalists that he would take them to his homes to see the upgrades. Mantashe reportedly said he would be sending a letter to the commission.

More details of Bosasa’s alleged dealings emerged during the testimony of Congress of the People MP Dennis Bloem on Friday.

Bloem told the commission that the department of correctional services was a “free-for-all” under the leadership of Bosasa-linked prisons commissioner Linda Mti.

Bosasa has held lucrative catering tenders with the department of correctional services since 2004. During the course of his testimony, former Bosasa chief operating officer Agrizzi confirmed these tenders were retained through Bosasa’s relationship with Mti.

READ MORE: Bosasa ran DCS into the ground — Bloem

The SIU began its probe into Bosasa in 2005 for alleged improper conduct relating to tenders the company was awarded. The unit’s report was finalised in 2009. It found that Bosasa officials paid bribes to Mti and the department’s then chief financial officer, Patrick Gillingham, to secure tenders. The report was handed over to the NPA.

Mti’s payment allegedly included free air tickets, hotel accommodation and paying for the design of his luxury home in Midrand.

According to Agrizzi’s testimony, Mti was paid R65 000 a month by Bosasa.

Bloem, a former chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on correctional services oversight, said: “This thing of Bosasa was hampering the function of the department of correctional services. There was no control. There was no discipline in the department of correctional services … People were unhappy in the department.”

Much of Bloem’s testimony was preoccupied with the fate of the late Vernie Petersen, who succeeded Mti in 2007 before he was transferred to the department of sports and recreation in 2008.

According to Agrizzi, Petersen would not cooperate with Bosasa during his time as prisons commissioner.

Bloem called Petersen a “corruption buster”. “He was a straightforward person,” Bloem said.

Petersen’s transfer was “a blow to the department of correctional services”, Bloem said, telling the commission that the minister Ngconde Balfour did not alert the portfolio committee about Petersen’s redeployment.

Two months before Petersen’s transfer, Balfour reportedly warned him in a letter that “something must break” if they cannot “trust and work together in the department”.

During his earlier testimony, Agrizzi claimed that Bosasa paid officials in the department of correctional services R1-million a month to put pressure on Petersen to get him to cooperate in the company’s business interests.

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

Bloem tearfully pleaded with the commission to investigate Petersen’s “mysterious” death.

He also told the commission that he had received death threats during his time in the portfolio committee on correctional services.

“I received a call. This person was telling me: ‘We are following you and we are going to finish you’,” Bloem said.