South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO

Dukwana testimony could once and for all lift information sluices on Magashule’s captured Free State

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule addresses the media about the outcomes of the ANC national executive committee meeting and ‘lekgotla’ on January 22, 2019 in Johanneburg, South Africa. Reflection on the state capture inquiry developments, The ANC revealed that the party will not take action against its members yet, including ministers, who have been implicated in bribery and corruption by former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi, as his version was one-sided. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Masi Losi)

Former Free State MEC Mxolisi Dukwana’s introductory testimony on Friday marked an important expansion of the body of graft allegations to be considered by the Zondo Commission. The Guptas, Bosasa and abuses at large state-owned entities are among the issues that have been unpacked before Judge Zondo thus far. Now, the commission and the public’s attention will be drawn to the captured state’s more provincial abuses.

Angelo Agrizzi’s earlier appearances at the Zondo Commission underpinned the value of testimony from individuals with first-hand experience of how grand-scale corruption and State Capture ploys are rolled out by private sector captors and their public sector accomplices.

Agrizzi’s tales of cash bribes, braai packs and booze that Bosasa allegedly dished out to scores of government officials and top-level politicians in exchange for lucrative contracts provide a rare insider peek into the mechanics behind large-scale graft. Testimony from people like Agrizzi in any criminal cases that may sprout from the commission could in some instances be the difference between successful prosecutions and acquittals.

Former Free State economic development MEC Mxolisi Dukwana, who on Friday drew more than a few gasps from the journalists and members of the public attending the commission, has turned on some of his former bosses in government in the same manner that Agrizzi had turned on Bosasa’s top dogs.

In Dukwana’s case, former Free State Premier Ace Magashule stands at the centre of the revelations the former MEC has decided to bring to the commission.

This is a crucial development. The Agrizzis of the private sector are scarce enough, but in a provincial government set-up, as infected by fear as Magashule’s Free State, the likes of Dukwana have been an even rarer breed.

This is why Dukwana’s seemingly mundane chat with deputy chief justice Zondo towards the end of Friday’s proceedings is so significant. After Dukwana had finished his now widely-publicised account of an alleged visit to Saxonwold with Magashule in 2011 and Atul Gupta’s alleged admission that he had channelled R1-million a month from a mining project in the province to the then premier, the former MEC discussed some housekeeping issues with the commission chair.

Dukwana wanted to know if potential witnesses could testify in languages other than English. He suggested there are many more people from the Free State who had been privy to Magashule’s alleged corruption schemes who would testify if they could do so in their mother tongues.

Seeing as the commission allows for testimony in all official languages, they would be welcome to testify in whatever language they felt comfortable with, Zondo told him.

By the sound of it, there may be plenty more individuals from the ANC’s Free State fold and from the province’s government structures who could approach the commission in the next weeks or months with their own accounts of Magashule’s alleged transgressions.

Dukwana himself will, of course, be back at the commission at some point in the near future to elaborate on his explosive claims and to be subjected to cross-examination. The latter-mentioned process will no doubt provide for very interesting moments. On Friday, journalists and other attendees couldn’t help but laugh when Dukwana explained how Atul Gupta had once given him R10,000 for “petrol money” after a meeting at one of the family’s businesses in Midrand. The veracity of what was claimed to have been Dukwana’s signatures on government documents related to a R140-million deal involving the Guptas and the then MEC’s department will also be delved into.

Dukwana should, therefore, know that he is in for a tough time, especially when it is time for him to be grilled by the attorneys of those implicated by his testimony.

But his contribution towards getting to the bottom of Magashule’s alleged empire of corruption will no doubt remain invaluable.

For a start, Dukwana’s account of the Saxonwold visit in 2011 lends weight to a similar claim made by former Bloemfontein mayor Thabo Manyoni. These claims place Magashule at the centre of the Gupta-run shadow state and implicate him as an enabler or facilitator of their alleged capture schemes.

Dukwana’s testimony in this regard may also reaffirm accounts by former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and other officials that suggest the Guptas captured former president Jacob Zuma’s executive responsibilities for financial gain.

The former MEC’s account of a much earlier visit to the Guptas along with Magashule could have far-reaching implications for the generally-accepted timeline of the Gupta family’s rise to power in the shadow state.

Dukwana told the commission that he was taken to the offices of Sahara Computers, one of the jewels in the Guptas’ now-defunct business empire, as far back as 2008, when Magashule himself was still an MEC. During the meeting, Magashule allegedly provided Atul Gupta with a copy of his ID for paperwork that needed to be completed in relation to an unknown business deal. Magashule had therefore allegedly jumped into bed with his friends from Saxonwold a good four years before the Gupta-linked Estina started draining the province’s coffers. Investigators would now need to determine which dubious deals, if any, Magashule may have channelled to the Guptas during that earlier time frame.

But it may be the symbolism of Dukwana’s testimony that is ultimately of the greatest value.

The fact that one of Magashule’s former MECs was willing to take on the former Free State strongman on a platform as public as the Zondo Commission could be the impetus for a wave of new testimony from one of the captured state’s hinterlands. DM

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