South Africa

Days of Zondo

Third Bosasa whistle-blower spills beans on Gillingham, Wakeford, Mokonyane and the ANC

Frans Vorster, former Bosasa employee testifies at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, 30 January 2019. Screenshot: Youtube/SABC

Former Correctional Services chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham had such cosy ties with Bosasa that the company arranged the purchases of five different cars for him, his wife and two of his children over several years, the State Capture inquiry heard on Wednesday.

The purchases of the cars were in addition to a home the company allegedly built for him at the exclusive Midstream Estate.

Around 2008 when Bosasa bosses smelled trouble — a possible raid by the Special Investigating Unit which was then investigating it for fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering — the company bosses allegedly concocted an elaborate scheme to cover up payment of R180,000 into Gillingham’s bank account.

This included a fake disciplinary case, complete with paperwork, charges and a final written warning for one of its senior managers, Frans Vorster.

Vorster was the third Bosasa whistle-blower to testify before the State Capture inquiry on Wednesday afternoon. This came after testimony by the company’s former chief financial officer Andries van Tonder and Angelo Agrizzi: (See reports: Bosasa lied to Sars and burnt incriminating records, twice, says former CFO, and The unravelling of Angelo Agrizzi, State Capture’s racist whistle-blower)

A former policeman and station commander, who held various senior positions in the company, Voster detailed his involvement in the purchases of various cars for members of the Gillingham family, including two Mercedes Benz vehicles for Gillingham.

He said Bosasa’s paying for the cars started shortly after Gillingham had allegedly helped them to bag their first catering contract with Correctional Services.

Vorster detailed how he personally arranged the purchases of two cars for Gillingham, one for his wife and two for two of his children.

He also told the commission that he was initially tasked with handing Gillingham’s envelopes of cash.

The payments, he said, were for Gillingham’s assistance in providing him with insider information about catering requirements, which the company later used to develop its pitch to Correctional Services. Bosasa won its first catering contract in 2004, one of several under criminal investigation by the SIU, the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority over the years.

In the case of one of the car purchases, Vorster said Gillingham had wanted extras after the deal was signed so Bosasa had to cough up.

We had to pay in R180,000 towards this car and that created a problem. The money went through a few bank accounts first.”

This was allegedly to complicate the paper trail for investigators, whom they knew were on their tail.

This resulted in a “pretend” disciplinary case whereby Vorster had to pretend that he had misled the company about his relationship with Gillingham.

He was slapped with charges and paperwork was drawn up in the event they needed to explain the payment.

He also testified to how he collected a file containing paperwork for another vehicle, bought for former Correctional Services commissioner Linda Mti from a Krugersdorp dealership when they were alerted that the SIU had been in touch.

I got a call from the dealership saying SIU investigators were asking questions about Mti’s car.”

He had placed that order and knew his signature was all over it.

Vorster told the Commission he collected the file, didn’t bother to look at its contents and simply burnt it.

He said he could not say if Bosasa had paid for Mti’s car, but presumed this was the case as CEO Gavin Watson had allegedly instructed him to fetch the file.

Vorster also testified to his personal involvement in the rental of an Audi A3 for the daughter of Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane in around November/December 2015 — this was at the request of Watson, he said.

He had done so several times before — allegedly always delivering and collecting the vehicle from the minister’s home — but was later stripped of the responsibility as it was taken over by Agrizzi, who concluded the first stage of his testimony on Tuesday.

In this case though, Vorster said the car was meant to be rented for two weeks in December, but that Mokonyane’s daughter allegedly requested two extensions and ended up having use of the vehicle for two months.

Bosasa, he said, picked up the tab for this, plus the excess for a little fender-bender that occurred while she had the car.

A little ANC do

Vorster said part of his duties involved the running of a Bosasa call centre. Around 2014 his staff occupied only half of the facility. At some point, he said he was instructed to let about 20 or so people move into the call centre to work on an ANC election campaign.

Bosasa’s IT department, he said, set up computers and phone lines for them to use.

Later on, a marquee was erected with food, crockery and cutlery, all arranged by Bosasa for a celebration party for about 400 people. This entire process, Vorster said, was allegedly driven by Mokonyane.

Generally, he said, everyone had to drop everything they were doing to fulfil Mokonyane’s wishes, as they knew she was important to Watson.

Mokonyane has challenged the procedure around which Agrizzi’s testimony was presented as she did not have prior knowledge that she would be implicated.

Commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, stressed that all implicated parties have the right to challenge witness testimony by bringing an application in terms of the rules of the commission.

Cement Mr Wakeford?

Vorster previously headed Bosasa’s operation at the Lindela Repatriation Centre for an extended period and described this as a cash-cow — the company charged government per detainee and numbers at times went up to as many as 7,000.

But, once, after they had depleted the Department of Home Affairs’ budget over a six- month period, then DG Arthur Fraser put a stop to their industrious system of collecting illegal immigrants from police stations.

Vorster told the commission that Gavin Watson was livid with him over this and moved him elsewhere in the group in about 2007.

Vorster then became involved in the running of Bosasa’s fleet management unit and managed to turn the loss-making division around. He was moved to head office some months later to take charge of logistics, procurement and cars.

There he would encounter Kevin Wakeford, the current CEO of Armscor who is on special leave since being named by Agrizzi.

Vorster testified how Wakeford had allegedly called him for wet and dry cement orders for the period of about a year, for delivery to a Meyerton property belonging to George Papadakis, then a consultant with the SA Revenue Services.

Agrizzi had testified that Wakeford had arranged for Papadakis to help Bosasa resolve a tax hassle they had at the time.

He estimated the cost of the cement deliveries to be in the region of R600,000.

At one stage I thought they were building a palace because of the volume they needed.”

Wakeford has issued a press statement in respect of Agrizzi’s testimony in which he denied wrongdoing and is preparing a submission to the commission.

Vorster also backed some of Van Tonder’s testimony about how the company had allegedly deceived SARS. He testified that senior Bosasa staff, including a chartered accountant employed by the company, had presented him with statements to sign so they could lie to SARS about equipment for a prawn-breeding facility that had been transported from Port Elizabeth to Gauteng. This was the little tax matter Papadakis allegedly helped the company with.

Thus far all testimony presented by the Bosasa whistle-blowers is regarded as one-sided and may still be tested by the long list of individuals they have implicated.

The commission resumes on Thursday morning. DM


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