South Africa

Days of Zondo

Bosasa’s Zuma plan revealed in secret recording

Former Bosasa Chief Operations Officer (COO) Angelo Agrizzi testifies at the Raymond Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on January 16, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Agrizzi revealed that Bosasa spent R4m-R6m in a cash a month on bribing officials and politicians for contracts and tenders. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Alaister Russell)

Bosasa boss Gavin Watson allegedly rehearsed just how he would tell former president Jacob Zuma about the need to put in place ‘the right’ National Director of Public Prosecutions as part of the company’s bid to ensure the disintegration of serious fraud, corruption and racketeering investigations.

Angelo Agrizzi secretly recorded his boss, Gavin Watson, and Linda Mti, a former Correctional Services commissioner on their payroll, demonstrating how he would present a battle plan to former president Jacob Zuma about what exactly needed to be done urgently to save Bosasa’s skin.

Watson was allegedly scheduled to meet Zuma days later because former Hawks boss Anwa Dramat was blocking their efforts to secure the Bosasa docket and the acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, “was buggered up” in the press.

Agrizzi earlier told the State Capture inquiry that Jiba was among a trio of senior NPA bosses who had been paid a total of R130,000 a month to have their backs. She has denied having received payment.

He later testified to a meeting between himself, Watson and Mti around 2015 during which a frantic but confident-sounding Watson is heard pretending to be addressing Zuma. In the recording, played during testimony on Thursday afternoon, someone described by Agrizzi as Watson is heard saying:

Now Mr President, you need to close this thing down. We need the right person in the right place.”

At that time Jiba was facing fraud and perjury charges over processes she had followed in deciding to charge Major-General Johan Booysen, the former head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ntlemeza is the right guy at that place (the Hawks), doing what he can. Now we need to get the right person at the NPA.

Either we get Chauke in, or Jiba, or that woman in Natal,” a person identified during testimony as Watson says.

Now Jiba’s been buggered up. (Lawrence) Mrwebi has also been buggered up, okay, 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 decision now. You haven’t got much time to go.”

Watson is then heard telling Mti and Agrizzi: “That’s how I talk to him (Zuma).”

Agrizzi confirmed on Thursday that he then asked Watson whether he had explained to Mti his arrangements to have prosecutors booted from the Bosasa case.

At the time Bosasa had been investigated by the Special Investigating Unit — and the NPA was wrapping up its work for the prosecution of 27 entities and individuals linked to Bosasa and several lucrative deals allegedly irregularly awarded to them by the Department of Correctional Services.

In the recording, Watson is heard mentioning the name of one of the prosecutors who had been taken off the case, an advocate De Kock.

But she has been smuggled back on,” Watson is heard saying.

Earlier testimony about the alleged bribes to the NPA group included details of a string of internal documents handed to Agrizzi and Watson by Mti over several years. Some of those were confidential documents drawn up and disseminated by the same prosecutor.

Commission chairman, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, asked how it would have been possible for Watson to play a role in moving people when he was not in the employ othe f government.

Agrizzi said that Watson simply had the power to do that — that not even “the Pope” would have been shielded, he said.

The recording contains discussions about two main topics. One, the contemplated prosecution of Bosasa and how to get out of it, and another, about the so-called SARS Rogue Unit. Agrizzi, though, told the commission that part was not relevant to his testimony.

The recording came on the back of testimony earlier in the day about alleged payments that Agrizzi had made over a number of years to Mti, allegedly for distribution to the NPA’s Jiba, Mrwebi and Jiba’s personal assistant Jackie Lephinka.

In exchange for the payments, Agrizzi testified that Bosasa extracted a string of confidential and top-secret internal documents that helped them to develop legal strategies.

He testified to several of those, including an email chain from 22 November 2012 which Lephinka had allegedly sent to Mti.

It shows that Jiba was seeking a status report on various cases, including the Bosasa matter.

Agrizzi says this document was handed to them by Mti, who told them the NPA could not shut down the investigation against Bosasa in isolation, that it would have to be done as a part of five others, including an unspecified Coca-Cola case.

The email stated that the initial status reports provided on those cases were not in line with what Jiba had requested, that the recipients, including Mrwebi, had to ensure that it outlined the current status of the cases, the available evidence and, if not yet on the court roll, when this would be done.

Lephinka, the PA, then stated that this feedback was required within days and then went on to add:

In terms of the Bosasa case that’s been under investigation for many years, it is clear there is no evidence and or prospect of a successful prosecution.”

This was then followed up by an email for a meeting with the relevant prosecutors.

A report by advocate MC De Kock, dated a day later, specified progress in the then “incomplete” Bosasa investigation, stated that investigators had gathered almost 200 statements and that it was anticipated that the case would be wrapped up and taken to court by mid-2013.

Agrizzi then testified to a handwritten note (on a bar-coded university exam pad at Mti’s house) which he said Mti had scribbled down when giving him an update on the goings-on at the NPA.

He was briefing me abouthe t outcome of a meeting with the ladies,” allegedly how they referred to Jiba and Lephinka.

The note stated that Bosasa would have to challenge the legality of the SIU report on two fronts, in part because the manner in which the NPA had allegedly secured evidence was “tainted”.

Mti allegedly told him that Bosasa lawyers should write to the NPA for the case to be dropped, for among other reasons that the “fundamental rights” of those implicated had been infringed upon.

Armed with this information, Agrizzi says Bosasa briefed its lawyers to draft a document seeking a nolle prosequi certificate.

Once done, Mti then had to run the lawyers’ letter by his NPA sources.

Agrizzi testified that they were not happy and gave Mti further pointers.

These, Agrizzi said, he (Agrizzi) jotted down and a revised letter to be sent to the NPA included a request for representation to the NPA, Jiba in particular, declaring that Bosasa would challenge the SIU report, that the SIU had failed to inform the president about the outcome of its investigation before doing this in Parliament, and highlighting the impact on the families of those implicated due to the lengthy duration of the investigation.

In addition, this letter was to state that the case against Bosasa had been politically motivated and had cost the company local and international business opportunities.

Said Agrizzi: “I was told categorically that this advice came from Jiba.”

The hearing continues on Monday. DM

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