Testifying before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, Leon Van Tonder said they had to specifically include key words for the data dump to cover words like “specification, tender specification, fencing and catering”.
He was then required – for the first time ever – to sign a statement saying the tender files were “lost” during routine maintenance of Bosasa’s server when he had deleted non-essential data.
He says Angelo Agrizzi, the then chief operating officer, had asked him for this statement.
“I did find this unusual. But we were never allowed to question instructions from either Gavin Watson, the CEO, or Agrizzi.”
His testimony on Thursday afternoon came on the back of earlier evidence by Agrizzi about how Bosasa bosses allegedly orchestrated a server crash to help destroy key documents ahead of a planned visit by the Special Investigating Unit to procure mirror images of the company’s server.
Van Tonder, the younger brother of Andries van Tonder, former Bosasa chief financial officer who testified on Wednesday, said while there is generally nothing untoward about deleting non-essential data from a server, in this instance, he had realised something was wrong because the brief included the deletion of tender-related information.
And, it followed on from a meeting he attended with Watson and other Bosasa directors at the company’s lawyer’s office.
The purpose of that meeting, Van Tonder said, was to discuss the imaging the Special Investigating Unit wanted to do of the Bosasa servers.
Earlier testimony by Agrizzi was that the team were warned during that meeting not to touch the server.
“After the meeting, we were standing in the basement parking when Watson said it’s his servers, his data and he could do with it as he pleases,” Van Tonder testified.
He said he was then instructed to ensure the deletion of information and had to specifically search for data relating to the company’s Correctional Services contracts for the period 2004 to 2007. Those deals were the subject of the SIU investigation at the time.
“I reluctantly did abide by the instruction (to delete files) even though I knew it was wrong,” he said.
While deleting data, Van Tonder came across two documents and some data relating to Bosasa’s catering contract with Correctional Services.
He copied them onto a hard drive. Asked why, Van Tonder told the commission: “I felt in my heart it was wrong to delete these files. That’s why I felt it was necessary to copy them.”
He says he would have saved other related documents had he found more.
Van Tonder said he intended to produce the documents for investigations should the need arise as he feared he may become a scapegoat down the line.
He handed the hard drives and another copy to Agrizzi around 2015/2016. Those have since been handed to the commission.
Van Tonder left the Bosasa group in May 2018, having worked there for nearly 20 years. DM
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