Agrizzi’s final day in the stand: Racism and relief

2019-01-29 22:06
Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi  before the State Capture Inquiry. (Alaister Russell/Gallo Images)

Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi before the State Capture Inquiry. (Alaister Russell/Gallo Images)

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The final day of initial testimony by former Bosasa boss Angelo Agrizzi was overshadowed by a clip that revealed a racist tirade by the state capture commission of inquiry's star witness in horrifying detail. 

Agrizzi was secretly recorded during a meeting at his Fourways home referring to black directors of Bosasa as k*****s on numerous occasions. 

A short clip of Agrizzi speaking with Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson's children and nephew, Lindsay, Roth and Jarrod Watson, that has been circulating on social media since September last year was played for the commission to hear. 

The clip is audibly an edited version of a longer recording, which Agrizzi claims should be at least three hours long, and was cobbled together to place every occasion that Agrizzi used the k-word in sequence. 

The commission has undertaken to obtain the full recording.

The k-word 

At one point Agrizzi says: "That k****r needs a good hiding," and: "Because he is a bloody k****r".

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who chairs the commission, said the recording was "extremely offensive and totally unacceptable". Evidence leader, advocate Paul Pretorius, put it on record that the commission's legal team also found Agrizzi's conduct appalling. 

Agrizzi is under investigation by the SA Police Service for the utterances and admitted before the commission that he "was a racist". He apologised before and after the recording was played but implored Zondo to judge his evidence on the facts. Zondo affirmed that the racist proclamations would not affect his weighing of the evidence. 

Aside from the clip, which threw a palpable pall over proceedings, Agrizzi's testimony on his final day was far removed from the bombshells he had revealed on Monday and in the previous week.

He testified how he was asked to intervene when a group of other senior Bosasa staff members had threatened to blow the whistle on decades of corruption at the Krugersdorp-based company. 

In early 2017, Agrizzi was instructed by Bosasa's long-time attorney Brian Biebuyck to meet with the group of four men to encourage them to sign settlement agreements in exchange for not divulging the corrupt practices that had gone on at Bosasa.

READ: Zondo on Agrizzi’s racist tirade: 'What you said was extremely offensive and totally unacceptable'

"He (Biebuyck) told me that it did not matter if I wanted to get involved or not. If I wanted to stay out of jail, I would speak to them," Agrizzi said. 

The men agreed in writing not to blow the whistle, Agrizzi explained, but he knew that if he testified they could be subpoenaed to appear before a court.

After tea, Agrizzi was confronted with a letter the Sunday Times had written to the commission stating that Agrizzi had lied under oath when he told the commission on Monday that the newspaper had not given him an opportunity to respond to allegations that he was selling his R13m Fourways home and would be running away to Italy after giving his evidence. 

'He got people to do corrupt things for him'

Pretorius put it to Agrizzi that he had made a false claim. Agrizzi was forced to admit he had claimed he was given no opportunity to respond. But when presented with emails from Sunday Times journalist Bongani Fuzile and Agrizzi's response attached to the letter, he claimed he must have misunderstood the question.

The issue was not resolved and Zondo indicated that further information would be obtained before he made a determination on the matter. After being dismissed by Zondo, a seemingly relieved Agrizzi stepped down and proceeded to thank journalists and his security team in full view of the public gallery.

As he walked along the table to thank journalists personally and shake their hands, several journalists walked away to avoid interacting with him. Late in the afternoon on Tuesday, the commission was introduced to the next witness when Andries van Tonder, the former chief financial officer of Bosasa, was sworn in. 

Van Tonder quickly waded into serious matters, revealing that he was part of a conspiracy to provide false information to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) around 2015 when the tax man launched an investigation into the financial affairs of the company. 

He detailed how he came to work for the company and how his relationship with Watson deteriorated following the SARS incident.

"He got people to do corrupt things for him, and then he disposed of them," Van Tonder claimed of Watson. 

Agrizzi is by no means done – and is expected to be before the commission again to supplement his initial evidence, and also to face probable cross-examination by several of the individuals he implicated in accepting bribes.

Read more on:    angelo agrizzi  |  racism
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