State capture report recommends charges against Zuma, Mokonyane and Mantashe

“On a regular basis, Bosasa provided full security solutions at the residences of ministers, senior politicians and senior government officials. To facilitate the assistance, a special team known as the special projects team was created.”

So begins the second half of the third instalment of the Zondo report on state capture. 

It continues over some 500 pages to list the powerful who received gratification, in the form of bags of cash and free security installations, from the infamous logistics company. It concludes that there is cause for criminal investigation against former Gauteng premier and water and environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane, former president Jacob Zuma and his confidant Dudu Myeni, senior parliamentarian Cedric Frolick, deputy defence minister Thabang Makwetla and ANC chairman and energy minister Gwede Mantashe

The report notes that the system of bribery was so elaborate that to avoid suspicion, the team travelled in unmarked vehicles and worked in plain clothes. Care was taken to file the serial numbers off all material used.

All cover was blown by the testimony of Bosasa’s former chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi, who Zondo recalls told the commission that, indirectly, the state paid for the scheme, because the company claimed tax deductions for the work.

In the case of Zuma, he finds that there was corroborating evidence that he accepted gifts, at least in the form of paid-for 72nd birthday celebrations. But the then president also exerted pressure on the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to leak information regarding investigations into Bosasa to the company. 

This qualified as corruption, Zondo said, and pointed out that there was a concrete result. “The investigation and prosecution were, indeed, successfully brought to a halt.”

This also prevented the setting aside of corrupt contracts. The probability that Zuma played a role was amplified by the fact Myeni was found to have been involved, Zondo said.

He stressed that Zuma had ample opportunity to come before the commission to present his version but chose not to.

The report notes that Mokonyane only conceded that she had a 40th birthday party at a guesthouse pinpointed by Agrizzi, after the owner of the guest house backed up his testimony, but maintained that she did not know Bosasa paid for the lavish event. It then turns to his testimony that she received a monthly stipend of R50 000 from Bosasa.

Though Mokonyane denied this, Zondo finds that Agrizzi was able to accurately describe the interiors of her homes where he handed her the cash. “Particularly the Bryanston house which she owned more recently”.

The security instalments and regular maintenance callouts at her home fills several pages, and includes repairs to water features. The record of her denials fills as many, but the commission points to the Inyanda-Roodepoort Wind Energy Facility, in which Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson had an interest, getting environmental approval, despite numerous objections, in an appeal process over which the minister presided.

Again, Mokonyane denied that she was involved. But the commission found that there was sufficient evidence that she accepted bribes and recommended that she face charges.

Myeni’s denials are interspersed with her memorable refusal to answer questions for fear of incriminating herself. The commission’s chief investigator, the late Frank Dutton, was able to confirm aspects of Agrizzi’s testimony regarding a meeting with Myeni in a members-only part of the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. Agrizzi said she allowed him to photograph a docket with status updates on the NPA’s investigation into Bosasa. Dutton matched the carpet in the hotel to that in which the docket was placed in the photograph and confirmed that Myeni stayed there on the dates in question.

The commission mulls in the report whether the evidence regarding upgrades by Bosasa to three homes owned by Mantashe — he insisted that he did not see anything wrong with accepting the gift — could fall outside its terms of reference because he was not a public office bearer at the time, but was the secretary general of the ANC.

It concludes that it did not, if this was in fact done to influence people in positions of state via Mantashe. Nor does the inquiry fall at the second hurdle, because the terms of reference do not demand that the people earmarked to be influenced in the process be identified.

The commission says, however, that if it seemed plain that Bosasa and the middleman, through whom Mantashe received the benefits, behaved in a corrupt manner this does not “automatically translate into guilty conduct or knowledge on the part of Mr Mantashe”.

But it questioned his testimony on several points, starting with his characterisation of the ANC as a “mere NGO”.  The same went for his attempts to downplay the power the secretary general of the ruling party holds and to portray the security installations as a form of traditional, familial support. 

The mere scale of the generosity rendered this unconvincing, Zondo found, and his insistence that this was an arrangement of a traditional, familial nature did not stand up because, if this was the case, one would have at least expected him to make some contribution to the cost.

Instead, Mantashe accepted the handouts and claimed to have no idea of their value.

“With each additional installation, the improbability of his having no knowledge about who exactly was responsible and at what cost, increases,” Zondo concluded.

There was no evidence that Mantashe ever behaved in the manner Bosasa hoped he would. But there was a reasonable suspicion that he knew the gifts came with an expectation that he would influence unnamed people in the government to act in a manner that favoured the company.

Hence, the question arose whether the presumption in section 24 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act could be applied to him to justify further investigation or a prosecution. Zondo concluded that there is a reasonable prospect that a prima facie case of corruption against Mantashe could be established and referred the matter for investigation.

The commission conducted a similar inquiry as to whether its terms of reference applied to the ANC per se. It concluded that it had the power to make findings against the party, because influencing the ruling party “necessarily means the ability to influence people” who hold legislative or executive power in the state.

Watson’s abuse of his ties with members of the ANC to achieve his own ends created a legitimate assumption that sponsoring the party’s election “war room” was not a bona fide contribution but done for influence and gain.

It was appropriate for President Cyril Ramaphosa to describe accepting this donation as a “major lapse” on the part of the party, although he testified that it failed to occur to him that Bosasa had financed this in full.

The commission opted not to make any findings on the president’s limited testimony on donations to his CR17 ANC election campaign, because this was already the subject of court proceedings. 

Ramaphosa had testified that he “never really thought” a donation to his CR17 campaign to become ANC leader came from the company

Zondo does refer for further investigation the testimony that members of the NPA leaked confidential documents relating to investigations against Bosasa, including that they were bribed to do so.

The report finds that there was a reasonable suspicion that, as parliamentary chair of chairs, Frolick’s intervention to give Bosasa a hearing with Vincent Smith, the chairperson of the portfolio committee on correctional services who was initially hostile to the idea of extending the company’s contracts with prisons, was done in return for bribes. It notes that the evidence “strongly suggests that Mr Smith was won over” and referred the matter to the authorities to investigate corruption charges. 

Regarding Smith, the commission concludes that the evidence strongly points to there having been assistance forthcoming as clear “quid pro quo” and says it may be inferred that he facilitated the unlawful awarding of tenders.

The report found it was “scary” that Makwetla, five years after Watson upgraded security at his home, at a time when Bosasa was doing business with the defence department, told the commission that he did not see a conflict of interest. 

“If this is true, it means that he should not be occupying such a senior position in government.”

It found that Makwetla was in breach of his constitutional and ethical duties and that the evidence pointed to a prima facie case of corruption, which requires further investigation.

Reflecting on the credibility of Agrizzi’s evidence, Zondo said it was fallible in relation to detail but on the main pillars it was corroborated by other witnesses or the work of investigators.

“His evidence was less convincing where he tried to portray a less corrupt version of himself.” It also found that his motives for disclosure may have been “mixed” rather than motivated by the public good.

Be that as it may, the commission found, there was overwhelming evidence of attempts to extract favours from members of the national executive, employees of state institutions and state-owned entities, with hard cash being the main mode of bribery employed. 

It did not stop there. Bosasa also built homes, helped to furnish and secure said homes, bought cars, jewellery, luxury pens and food, and paid for travel. On Agrizzi’s testimony the company paid between R4-million to R6-million a month in inducements.

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