South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO: NEWSFLASH

Jiba hisses at the nickname Snake, seeks to cross-examine Agrizzi

Former deputy national director of public prosecutions Adv Nomgcobo Jiba during the Mokgoro Commission of Inquiry on February 25, 2019 in Centurion, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

Former Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba wants to clear her name in relation to alleged Bosasa bribes. She has also taken issue with her reported nickname ‘Snake’ which former Bosasa Chief Operations Officer Angelo Agrizzi raised in his evidence at the Commission of Inquiry Into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in January.

Agrizzi claimed then prisons boss Linda Mti told Bosasa seniors he called Jiba by the moniker Snake “because she was very alert, always ready to strike” and, claimed Agrizzi, this label was used on bags of cash bribes.

On Tuesday morning, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo heard Jiba’s application to cross-examine Agrizzi at the Commission in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Jiba’s attorney Zola Majavu said: “The reputational damage as a result of what Mr Agrizzi said continues unabated to date and it is that mischief that she sought to deal with.”

Zondo, however, was of the view that cross-examining Agrizzi would not necessarily help. “I don’t see how Ms Jiba can cross-examine Mr Agrizzi about those payments in any way that assists the commission,” he said. Rather, suggested Zondo, they should first hear from Mti.

Majavu, for Jiba said: “The first point was, obviously, is to take issue with the allegations made by Mr Agrizzi through his mouth in an open commission for all and sundry to watch him and hear him.” Jiba wants to test what Agrizzi said about her in his affidavit and oral evidence. Javabu described the collateral damage caused by Agrizzi’s submissions, which were of “central importance” to Jiba, because she was the subject of another inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

What is unfortunate about this is the fact that that at the time that these allegations were made she was a serious holder of a very key constitutional office,” said Majavu.

By early April, retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro filed a report with President Cyril Ramaphosa declaring Jiba and former Head of the Specialised Crimes Court Lawrence Mrwebi unfit for office. Mrewbi, according to Agrizzi’s submissions, was the unfortunate recipient of the nickname “Snail” from Mti on account of a perceived lethargy and slowness.

Mokgoro reported that Jiba and Mrwebi lacked “complete honesty, reliability and integrity” as advocates.

Ramaphosa fired the duo on 26 April.

Jiba is of the view Agrizzi’s evidence had a direct impact on her career. “The collateral damage that was done […] sight cannot be lost of that,” said Majavu.

In January, Agrizzi testified on a meeting attended by Bosasa’s Chief Executive Officer Gavin Watson, Mti and himself during which, he alleges, they discussed paying bribes to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) seniors to quash an investigation into the company. Agrizzi reported that he was directly involved in packing grey security bags with wads of cash bribes. The bags, he claims, were labelled Snake and Snail with black permanent marker. He understood they were intended for Jiba and Mrwebi. “I took these bags together with the other bags to Mti,” testified Agrizzi, adding that he understood the money [a reported R100,000 allegedly for Jiba] was meant to stymie an NPA investigation into Bosasa.

Zondo thinks former Correctional Services Commissioner Linda Mti would be a more appropriate candidate for potential cross-examination by Jiba. “My concern is that Mr Agrizzi — as far as I can see in his affidavit, main affidavit — does say that he has no personal knowledge that any bribes were paid to Ms Jiba,” said Zondo.

All he is saying is that he interacted with Mr Mti and he and Mr Gavin Watson, they interacted with Mr Mti and Mr Mti told him certain things, including that some of the money was destined for Ms Jiba.” Majavu criticised Agrizzi for insinuating Jiba was involved in obstructing the pursuit of justice in allegedly leaking NPA documents to Bosasa. “It is not just something we can just gloss over,” he argued.

Mti and Agrizzi are co-accused in a criminal case relating to alleged Bosasa corruption in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court. Watson is not an accused. The matter is next in court on 24 October.

According to Agrizzi’s submissions at the Commission, Mti allegedly received cash bribes, gifts (including golf equipment and luxury clothing) and custom-built home in exchange for favours to the company.

Zondo has decided to postpone Jiba’s cross-examination application sine diepending the input of other anticipated witnesses such as Mti.

Advocate Julie Anne Harwood, for Agrizzi, indicated his willingness to appear before the Commission as required.

Zondo is keen to hear from Jiba. “I certainly intend to grant Ms Jiba leave to give evidence if she wants to in regard to any allegation, even if it’s a hearsay allegation, that she may have received bribes,” he said.

Following his decision to indefinitely postpone Jiba’s application, evidence on the Vrede Dairy Project resumed on Tuesday with input from Moses Moremi, former Municipal Manager of the Phumelela Local Municipality in the Free State. DM

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