Mokonyane: ‘There was nothing untoward about the ANC’s Bosasa ties’

The relationship between the controversial company, Bosasa — which had contracts with government departments, including prisons — and the ANC was a natural one, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Monday.

During her appearance before the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, former water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane, said there was “nothing untoward” about the relationship between Bosasa and the governing party.

Mokonyane, who was also previously the minister of environment and of communications and from 2009 to 2014 the premier of Gauteng, had a longstanding friendship with the politically-connected Watson family, who were important figures in the anti-apartheid struggle. She gave a speech at the memorial service for Bosasa’s chief executive, Gavin Watson, who died in a car accident last year.

Watson maintained relationships with members of the ANC and, according to allegations, profited handsomely — and improperly — through these ties. A 2019 Mail & Guardian report found that over a period of 15 years, Bosasa raked in R12-billion through tenders awarded to the firm by various government departments.

Early last year, Bosasa’s former chief operating officer, Angelo Agrizzi, told the Zondo commission that he and other employees, on Watson’s instructions, bribed state officials and politicians to secure the lucrative tenders and to help them evade prosecution for their alleged crimes. Mokonyane was one of the first of many high-profile politicians to be named by Agrizzi.

Bosasa’s alleged role in attempting to sway ANC campaigns caused trouble for President Cyril Ramaphosa when it became known that Watson had donated to his bid for the party’s presidency in 2017. Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report on the matter found that Ramaphosa misled Parliament when he answered a question about the donation. The report, however, was set aside by the high court in March.

On Monday, Mokonyane likened the relationship between Bosasa and the ANC to that of any other private sponsor. She said the services Bosasa offered the party, including providing campaign support, were the outcome of a “natural relationship of fellow fighters coming together”.

The former minister also refuted allegations that she improperly benefited from the relationship with the Watson family.

According to Agrizzi, Watson showered Mokonyane with gifts to buy her allegedly considerable political influence which would help Bosasa evade corruption charges.

Last year Agrizzi alleged that Bosasa paid for Mokonyane’s Christmas groceries. This grocery list 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.

But on Monday, Mokonyane said: “I have never received anything as Mr Agrizzi has stated.”

She added that she does not have the capacity to store the groceries that were allegedly bought for her. “We all know that a house like this one cannot have a storage to keep all these items, even those that came on site. I’m sure they didn’t find any strongroom or a fridge or whatever freezer that could keep this, nor do I have a place where I could keep these kinds of items.”

She also allegedly received R50 000 a month from Bosasa.

Mokonyane conceded that her daughter, Katlego, worked with Watson, but disputed that this had anything to do with his alleged efforts to buy political influence.

According to evidence by former Bosasa employee Frans Vorster, Watson tasked him 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 she allegedly ended up keeping the car for two months, Vorster told the commission in January last year. Bosasa paid for everything, including the excess after the minister’s daughter apparently damaged the car.

Mokonyane denied Agrizzi’s assertion that Watson wanted to curry favour with her because of the power she wielded in the ANC. “He thinks that I am the alpha and omega of the ANC. Never. There are structures and systems.”

Earlier in her testimony, Mokonyane said Agrizzi’s allegations against her were motivated by “hatred”.

“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.”

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

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.

Johannesburg cannot police its future

South Africa’s biggest city is ground zero for debates about the long-term effectiveness and constitutionality of militarised urban policing and how we imagine the post-Covid city

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’

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

READ IT: Mboweni’s 2020 medium term budget policy speech

Read the finance minister's speech

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

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday