Bosasa boss ‘could tell Zuma what to do’
Angelo Agrizzi implicates top prosecutors, government officials and journalists
A damning audio recording has been presented to the Zondo state capture commission that suggested that Bosasa boss Gavin Watson used his relationship with former president Jacob Zuma to influence the appointments and movements of officials in government.
Former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi secretly recorded a meeting between him, Watson and former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti in May 2015 in which Watson rehearses the instructions he would give to Zuma to protect his company from prosecution.
Agrizzi told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that at the time of the meeting Watson had already secured a meeting with Zuma. Watson used the meeting with Mti and Agrizzi to discuss what he would tell the president to do to take the pressure off Bosasa in light of continued attempts from within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to bring charges against the company.
In the recording, Watson is heard saying: “Mr President, we need to get to get this thing closed down ... We need to get the right people in the right place. [Berning] Ntlemeza (former head of the Hawks) is the right guy at that place. Now we have to get the right person at the NPA ... ”
Watson goes on to say: “He said Jiba is his person, okay ... Now Jiba has been buggered up, Mrwebi has also been buggered up in the press. So how do we protect them, Mr President? By putting the right person in there. I don’t know who is advising Mr President but you need to make the right decisions now, you haven’t got much time to go. That’s how I talk to him.”
In the recording, Agrizzi asks Watson to explain to Mti how he had arranged to move people around in government. Asked by Zondo how this was possible, Agrizzi said Watson was “influential” and had such powers.
“If I may just add, he (Watson) had the type of relationship with the president ... where he could tell the president what to do. It was frequent,” Agrizzi said when asked by Zondo about the contact between Watson and Zuma.
“He would visit the president quite regularly and I remember ... he told me what a mess [Nkandla] was in terms of the building and that it shouldn’t have cost R250m (R246m),” said Agrizzi.
Agrizzi has testified for seven days so far and presented bombshell evidence of collusion between senior officials of the department of correctional services and Bosasa to secure lucrative contracts for the company. He has also implicated journalists but has not named them.
Earlier on Thursday, Agrizzi gave shocking testimony alleging that top NPA officials Nomgcobo Jiba, Lawrence Mrwebi and Jackie Lapinka received monthly payments from Bosasa for protection from prosecution and in exchange for confidential information and secret documents related to the case against the company.
A number of secret documents, case reports, e-mail correspondence, minutes of meetings and even a draft charge sheet against Patrick Gillingham, one of the main suspects in the case, were presented into evidence. The documents included names of witnesses, information on statements obtained by the specialised commercial crimes unit, and details of bank accounts implicating Bosasa and officials from the prisons department.
“From this information, go interview the witnesses and quite easily it’s very easy to manipulate when you’ve lots of cash,” said Agrizzi.
Agrizzi alleged that Jiba, Mrwebi and Lapinka were paid the money via Mti.
“I was instructed by Gavin Watson to take to Mti cash earmarked for him as well as cash to be delivered to a number of other officials. Gavin Watson informed me that I was to take extra cash for the people at the NPA. He explained that he had packed security bags for Nomgcobo Jiba in the amount of R100,000 and marked it ‘Snake’, Lawrence Mrwebi in the amount of R10,000 and marked it ‘Snail’, and Jackie in the amount of R20,000 and marked it ‘J’,” said Agrizzi.
He said the code names were assigned to the officials by Mti and that the former prisons boss had regular meetings with “the ladies” to glean information about the investigation against Bosasa. Agrizzi also testified that Mti would call the NPA in his presence.
Agrizzi claimed that Mti received detailed instructions from Jiba on representations Bosasa’s attorneys needed to submit to her to have the case quashed. This included that the investigation against Bosasa had been “contaminated” and “unconstitutional”, rendering any prospective prosecution “fruit from a poisoned tree”.
According to handwritten notes by Mti, also presented into evidence, Bosasa’s lawyers had to argue to the NPA that the case should be dropped because the case was political, it was a basis of persecution by the media, and because of the impact it had on the families of those under investigation, and the negative impact on the business.
Agrizzi also implicated former national director of public prosecutions Menzi Simelani in the Bosasa cover-up. In a letter presented as evidence, Simelane reprimands former prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach for her pursuit of the case and instructs her and other officials working on it to withdraw. Simelane tells Breytenbach that they should dedicate their time and resources to cases where there are dockets to investigate or prosecute.
“Before we received the assistance of advocate Menzi Simelane, it was very tense at that stage because we wanted to close down. There were new contracts to be renewed,” Agrizzi said. On Thursday morning, Agrizzi named former correctional services commissioner Zach Modise and a number of the department’s officials as receiving payments from Bosasa.
The list of people being paid per month were: Josiah Maako (R15,000), Maria Mabena (R10,000), Shishi Mathabela (R10,000), * (no first name) Mkhabela (R10,000), Dikeledi Tshabalala (R15,000), Zach Modise (R20,000) and Mollot Ngubo (R15,000).
He said Bosasa spokesperson Papa Leshabane received R71,000 a month to pay Modise and journalists, who he was not asked to name.
Agrizzi continues his testimony on Monday.