Mokonyane ‘sets the record straight’ at Zondo commission

Former environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane said the allegations of corruption made against her at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture “smack of hatred”.

On Monday, Mokonyane opened her evidence at the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — by saying the accusations by former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi that she had received gifts in exchange for her political influence were “extremely defamatory” and “full of contradictions”.

“I find that they’re very insensitive,” Mokonyane said. “I find that they seem to be an act of excessive desperation, for reasons that are better known by Mr Agrizzi, to discredit me, to  destroy the little of what remains of my character.”

Bosasa specialised in providing services to the government, such as to prisons. More than a year ago, Agrizzi blew the lid off the Bosasa operation. He implicated a slew of officials in tender fraud and efforts to protect the firm from investigation, including high-profile politicians and leaders in various spheres of government. Mokonyane was one of the first to be named by him.

Agrizzi suggested Mokonyane’s influence was far-reaching and alleged she was a key protagonist in the efforts to derail the investigation by the National Prosecuting Authority into alleged corruption by Bosasa officials 

He told the commission that towards the end of every year, he was tasked by the former chief executive of Bosasa, Gavin Watson, with seeing to Mokonyane’s Christmas groceries.These 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 was 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.

Watson, who has since died, allegedly said that Mokonyane was powerful and that if he did not do what she wanted, Bosasa would not have protection in averting possible prosecution.

Mokonyane was also named by former Bosasa employee Frans Vorster, who corroborated elements of Agrizzi’s evidence. In January last year he told the commission: “I was told she [Mokonyane] had important political connections, both in the [former president Thabo] Mbeki era and [that of former president] Jacob Zuma.

“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 said.

Vorster alleged he was 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 after the minister’s daughter allegedly damaged the car.

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. 

But in her opening statement on Monday, Mokonyane denied the claims made against her. She alleged inconsistencies in Agrizzi’s evidence, including that he got her late son’s name wrong. Mokonyane also claimed that descriptions of her home were incorrect.

The former minister said Bosasa’s involvement — and that of other private companies — in various ANC campaigns and initiatives “was not a foreign thing”.

She said Agrizzi’s allegations were aimed at discrediting her, adding that his statement before the commission was “very disrespectful, insensitive and undermining — maybe reflecting on his chauvinistic and the self-confessed racist character”.

Mokonyane also suggested her safety and that of her loved ones has been compromised by Agrizzi’s evidence to the commission.

Mokonyane added: “I am here because I have to give my side of the story … I want to come and set the record straight.” 

In February last year, Agrizzi and four others, including Vorster, were arrested by the Hawks on corruption charges.

Later that year, Watson died in a car accident before having an opportunity to refute Agrizzi’s claims at the commission.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

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.

Related stories

Former state security minister Bongo back in court

Bongo and his co-accused will appear in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court in Mpumalanga over charges of fraud, corruption and theft

In terms of future-telling failures, this is a Major One

Bushiri knows how to pull a crowd. Ace knows a ponzi scheme. Paddy Harper predicts that a new prophet may profit at Luthuli House

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

Cartoon: No escapé for Signor Agrizzi

Angelo Agrizzi will have to enjoy the South African government’s hospitality for the time being

Sitting targets and lame ducks

Everybody’s staying pozi, which is making all the arrests easy for the Hawks. Only Ace is desperate to be seen

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Malawi court judges win global prize

Members of the small African country’s judiciary took a stand for democracy to international approval

Durban city manager says NPA erred in his bail conditions

The corruption-fraught metro is coming to grips with having a municipal manager who is on bail for graft, yet has returned to work

Why anti-corruption campaigns are bad for democracy

Such campaigns can draw attention to the widespread presence of the very behaviour they are trying to stamp out — and subconsciously encourage people to view it as appropriate

Tax, wage bill, debt, pandemic: Mboweni’s tightrope budget policy statement

The finance minister has to close the jaws of the hippo and he’s likely to do this by tightening the country’s belt, again.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday