Adriaan Basson

10 people Zondo should call to testify about Bosasa

2019-02-04 08:31
Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla (Netwerk24)

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

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For the Bosasa story to be completed, those implicated by testimony already given, as well as previous revelations, must be called to testify before the Zondo commission, writes Adriaan Basson.

As we enter the fourth week of evidence about Bosasa before Judge Ray Zondo's inquiry into state capture, it is worth asking who the silent voices in the room are so far.

Zondo has the power to subpoena witnesses to appear before him. For the Bosasa story to be completed, the following people should avail themselves to the commission, particularly if they dispute the explosive evidence of former chief operating officer, Angelo Agrizzi.

It will be a story in itself if they decline or refuse to appear before Zondo.

READ: 10 top priorities in new NDPP Shamila Batohi's inbox

1. Gavin Watson

Watson is the CEO of the Bosasa group, now known as African Global. He is the puppet master behind the corrupt Bosasa enterprise, if Agrizzi is to be believed.

Watson views himself as a spiritual figure who rules through religion and fear. Zondo has heard how he calls employees to an early-morning prayer session where they must reveal their fears and feelings.

Watson avoids the limelight and, although he lacks no hubris, has successfully maintained a low profile during years of Bosasa scandals. He brought and maintained the political connections through his family's proximity to the ANC.

Watson needs to put his version before Zondo if he believes Agrizzi made up falsehoods in an elaborate plot to overthrow him.

Gavin Watson and Jacob Zuma

Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson with former president Jacob Zuma.

2. Papa Leshabane

A long-time director and face of Bosasa in the media, Leshabane has long been a close ally of Watson and had to manage the public image of the group.

Agrizzi directly implicated Leshabane as part of the core Bosasa empire that paid bribes to maintain relationships and win government contracts. He went further to claim that Leshabane was paid R30 000 per month to bribe journalists.

The spin doctor, who maintains close relationships with senior Luthuli House figures, must come clean.

Bosasa, Jacob Zuma, NPA, Gavin Watson

Bosasa director Papa Leshabane (left) with former president Jacob Zuma and Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson. 

3. Brian Biebuyck

Watson's attorney of many years knows plenty of the goings-on behind closed doors at Bosasa and not only has an ethical duty, but as an officer of the court is also legally obliged to tell Zondo if he was ever compromised or requested to act illegally by his clients.

Biebuyck, who chairs the Wanderers Golf Club and is currently spearheading a R2bn property development with Investec Property on behalf of the club, was a partner at both ENS and Hogan Lovells when he worked for Watson.

Agrizzi has implicated him in underhanded dealings, including trying to broker a settlement with Watson that would have silenced Agrizzi.

Brian Biebuyck
Brian Biebuyck (right) with Herman Mashaba at the Wanderers Golf Club in Johannesburg.

4. Lenie Otto

The Bosasa group has been a customer of FNB for years. During this time, numerous articles appeared in the media linking Bosasa to corruption and fraud, including the findings of a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report.

Otto is FNB's head of financial crime. What did the bank do in reaction to these reports? Was an internal bank investigation ever done into the risk of banking Bosasa and what was the consequences, or not, thereof?

After hearing Agrizzi's evidence, and in the wake of banks closing the accounts of the Guptas due to allegations of state capture, what will FNB do now?

5. Bester Viljoen Inc

At crucial times when Bosasa was allegedly bribing numerous government officials and politicians to win tenders, Bester Viljoen Inc in Krugersdorp was the group's auditor. The firm was exceptionally close to Bosasa's business, even serving on the board of a Bosasa subsidiary.

Chartered accountants Ryno Viljoen and Marthinus Bester managed the firm at all relevant times and should be called by Zondo to explain how they missed the books being cooked. If they detected creative accounting, did they report this to the authorities?

Viljoen is now CEO of Bidvest-owned FinGlobal that provides financial services to South African expats. Bester owns a Christian ministry and a security company.

Ryno Viljoen

FinGlobal CEO Ryno Viljoen.

ALSO READ: Paul Pretorius - Guiding SA through the morass of corruption

6. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula

Mapisa-Nqakula's links to Watson and Bosasa start right at the beginning, when Dyambu Holdings was a shareholder in Dyambu Operations which later became Bosasa Operations.

Dyambu Holdings was seemingly a fundraising vehicle for the ANC Women's League, of which Mapisa-Nqakula was a leader. They sold the company to Watson.

Mapisa-Nqakula was minister of home affairs when the company benefited from the Lindela tender and minister of correctional services when Bosasa's multimillion-rand catering and security tenders were extended.

Agrizzi testified that her brother, Siviwe Mapisa, was bribed by Bosasa to win tenders at the SA Post Office where he was head of security.

Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

7. Ngconde Balfour

The former correctional services minister served in the portfolio at the time when Bosasa won its first batch of major prisons tenders. Despite numerous articles and the SIU report showing collusion and corruption, Balfour did nothing to stop the tenders. In fact, he overruled then commissioner Vernie Petersen to extend Bosasa's contracts.

Ngconde Balfour

Former minister of correctional services Ngconde Balfour (right).

8. Vincent Smith

The ANC MP was chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services when numerous complaints were brought to it concerning Bosasa's prisons contracts. Although he started out being critical of the company, they soon made overtures to him in the form of rands and cents (testified Agrizzi) and had Smith in their pockets.

Smith should respond to the testimony of his predecessor, Dennis Bloem, that Parliament turned a blind eye to Bosasa's obvious corruption.

ANC MP's Stan Maila, Lewis Nzimande and Vincent Sm

ANC MPs Stan Maila, Lewis Nzimande and Vincent Smith (right) address the media.

9. Tom Moyane

Not only did Moyane extend Bosasa's contracts as prisons boss; he also prevented the company from being blacklisted by National Treasury.

Agrizzi testified that he was bribed through a middleman; Moyane should explain to Zondo why he acted contrary to common sense and good governance principles, if he wasn't bribed.

Tom Moyane

Former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane.

10. Marijke de Kock

A deputy director of public prosecutions, De Kock was the prosecutor in the Bosasa matter for years before former NPA boss Shaun Abrahams removed her from the case in 2016.

Leaked NPA correspondence were shown by Agrizzi to the commission, including letters in which De Kock criticises the SIU's methodology, but also complains of undue pressure. Evidence has been heard about how her NPA bosses were allegedly on the take to make the case disappear.

De Kock's version of events should also be told.

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

Read more on:    bosasa  |  gavin watson  |  corruption  |  state capture inquiry
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