Agrizzi: Does the truth lurk behind the bombshells and racism?

2019-02-01 06:00
Former Bosasa top boss Angelo Agrizzi. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla (Netwerk24)

Former Bosasa top boss Angelo Agrizzi. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla (Netwerk24)

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What hides behind the bravado of self-confessed racist and corruptor turned whistleblower, Angelo Agrizzi?

What motivates a man to go from living in the lap of luxury, to abandoning the lavish trappings of ill-gotten gains, in exchange for the witness box?

And now that he has turned his back on a life of subterfuge and corruption, do we believe him? Do we trust this man enough to accept that the worst of what he has revealed could be true?

These are the questions this journalist asked himself as the Machiavellian tale of grand corruption woven by Bosasa was laid bare at the state capture commission over nine riveting, shocking and exhausting days.

Listening to Agrizzi explain in a matter-of-fact demeanour how he and others, mainly Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, bribed their way into the history books of our young democracy, one couldn't help but to lose hope in the people appointed to safeguard our nation.

In fact, what has become most apparent is that we were pushed over the edge of reason and justice onto the rocky crags of lawlessness many years ago.

He is an anomaly, the like of which are few and far between. How do you categorise this man, who laid the bricks of a billion-rand criminal empire along with the people he now accuses, only to turn around and reveal all?

In Shakespeare's Othello, Iago asks: "And what's he then that says I play the villain?"

Iago is a destructive character, who ruined the lives and careers of many. He manipulated every person in his life, but his motives were complicated and even the sharpest mind was never sure what they were.

Sometimes Iago, just like Agrizzi, gave an explanation for his decisions and actions – but it never quite rang true.

And in this, Agrizzi is almost identical to Iago. He has been cast as the villain, the man with dubious motives by the very men and women he now implicates.  

But perhaps, motive in this case, is not the key factor.

The inescapable fact is we have now been handed an opportunity to strike a terrible blow to the heart of the corruption that has plagued our public coffers for far too long.

It is a narrow window of opportunity that we cannot afford to let slip through our grasp.

In a horrifying display of irony we are brought to this moment by a man who confessed he was a racist, shortly before an audio clip confirmed his prejudice against out countrymen and women.

The clip revealed the worst of the man we witnessed dishing dirt on presidents, ministers, members of Parliament, as well as prosecutors.

Bosasa bribed them all, in exchange for the age-old motivator of greed – money. Cold hard cash.

The entire sordid tale is based on greed, the need for more money, more tenders and more bribes and when eventually in the crosshairs of the law, the need to stay out of jail.

Agrizzi revealed it all, no holds barred.

He explained in detail who was bribed, how much they took and why they took it.

There is no doubt that Agrizzi is brave and risked everything, including his own life and the lives of his children and grandchildren in coming clean.

Questions also shroud what really motivated him to come forward now, after 19 years at the coalface of Bosasa's largesse. But put that aside for a moment. Separate the "nakedly racist" tirade, collated and spread far and wide for the very purpose of discrediting the man behind the testimony.

Now ask: the canary has sung, but is the tune convincing?

There are two reasons why Agrizzi can be believed.

Firstly, no man or woman can afford to lie in such a public forum.

Consider the exceptional levels of scrutiny his version will be under, and has been placed under, not only from investigators and the commission's legal team, but from scores of journalists and Twitterati.

Agrizzi is fully aware that every claim he makes will be placed under the microscope.

There is another, more compelling reason.

Agrizzi will undoubtedly be called upon again in a court of law to tell the same story, speak to the same facts – but this time place himself in a position where a lie could spell a lengthy prison term.

It's that simple. Nothing Agrizzi said at the commission can be used against him.

But the stakes will be infinitely higher when he is eventually called upon to appear before a judge. In a court room, the lawyers aren't friendly and helpful – their purpose will be to cut to the bone of every fact, every allegation and every nuance.

And most judges and prosecutors do not suffer fools or abide the wasting of time.

Is Agrizzi believable?

Yes. He is.

In the coming months and as the legal tussles unfold, Agrizzi will do doubt be cast as the villain and racist he was, and is.

But those who he has implicated will not be able to escape the wrath of the law. Agrizzi has given us the tools to eradicate at least one grouping of corrupt South African leaders.

For his sins and prejudice, he will be forced to account.

And those he has implicated, will have to search for a better argument.    

Read more on:    angelo agrizzi  |  state capture inquiry  |  corruption

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