UPDATE: How Bosasa bragged about Zuma, NPA influence

2018-09-26 15:13
Gavin Watson, Bosasa CEO, with former president Jacob Zuma during the latter's 11 April 2015 visit to the company's Krugersdrop headquarters. (Supplied)

Gavin Watson, Bosasa CEO, with former president Jacob Zuma during the latter's 11 April 2015 visit to the company's Krugersdrop headquarters. (Supplied) (Supplied)

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In the weeks leading up to the appointment of Shaun Abrahams as the country’s prosecutions boss, Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson bragged how he planned to lobby former president Jacob Zuma to appoint someone who would "protect" his allies at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

A secret recording of a meeting between Watson, former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi and former prisons boss Linda Mti on May 8, 2015, obtained by News24, reveals past and planned future meetings between Watson and Zuma.

Watson details plans to discuss with Zuma the appointment of a national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) and how Bosasa was a victim of an elaborate plot by the media and anti-ANC elements to discredit them.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) found in 2009 that Bosasa, now named African Global Operations, allegedly paid bribes to Mti and correctional services chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham in exchange for tenders worth more than R1.5bn, from catering to fencing at prisons around the country.

"Mr President, we need to get this thing closed down. We need the right people in the right place," Watson planned telling Zuma.

"Ntlemeza is the right guy at that place, doing what he can. Now we need to get the right person at NPA. Either we get Chauke in, or Jiba or the woman down in Natal. One of them got to… look at what’s happened to Jiba. Jiba is buggered up in the press, he [Zuma] told me that," said Watson, referencing then deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba and then head of the Serious Commercial Crimes Unit Lawrence Mrwebi.

Watson also mentions former Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza, Gauteng DPP Andrew Chauke and KwaZulu-Natal DPP Moipone Noko (a protégé of Jiba’s who was appointed to the top prosecutorial office in KwaZulu-Natal by Zuma in 2013).

Watson adds that he told Zuma "we get on with Jiba. I didn’t say you were working with her, I just said we get on".

"He [Zuma] said Jiba is his person.

"Now Jiba’s been buggered up, Mrwebi has also been buggered up, okay, in the press. So how do we protect them, Mr President? By putting the right person in there. I don’t know who is advising Mr President, but you need to make the right decisions now. You haven’t got much time to go. That’s how I talk to him," Watson said.

A month after Watson told Mti and Agrizzi of his plans to meet with Zuma on these issues – on June 18, 2015 – Zuma appointed Advocate Shaun Abrahams as NDPP.

Bosasa, Jacob Zuma, NPA, Gavin Watson
Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson and former president Jacob Zuma during the latter's 11 April 2015 visit to Bosasa's Krugersdorp head office. (Supplied)

The previous conversation referenced by Watson between himself and Zuma allegedly took place during a tour of Bosasa’s headquarters in Krugersdorp undertaken by Zuma in April 2015.

Photographs of Zuma during the tour of Bosasa’s premises reveal the visit was on Saturday, April 11, 2015, the day before Zuma’s birthday.

Zuma was accompanied by former South African Airways (SAA) chairperson Dudu Myeni and current police minister Bheki Cele.

The following day, April 12, Zuma again found himself in the company of Bosasa and Watson during his lavish birthday party at Dube House in Durban – sponsored by Bosasa.

Bosasa paid for birthday parties for Zuma in 2015 and 2016 – at a combined cost of R3.5m, News24 previously reported.

Watson allegedly travelled to Nkandla to meet with Zuma around the same time, one Bosasa source told News24.

The recording also reveals that Watson planned to have a document drawn up that would detail the alleged plot against Bosasa, allegedly orchestrated by former NPA prosecutor-turned-DA-MP Glynnis Breytenbach.

Neither Watson nor Bosasa have disputed the authenticity of the recording, a copy of which was provided to them.

"When I sit with the president and I go through the document, it’s gotta be factual," Watson said.

Later during the conversation Watson explains that "the president wants me to do a presentation to him when he gets back from Russia".

Zuma was in Russia on May 8 and 9, 2015.

Bosasa, Jacob Zuma, NPA, Gavin Watson
Former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni, Bosasa's Thandi Makoko, former president Jacob Zuma, Bosasa MD Jackie Leyds, Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson and daughter Lindsay with Bheki Cele. 

(Back) Unknown with Bosasa directors Papa Leshabane, Trevor Mathenjwa and Angelo Agrizzi. 

One of Abrahams’ first acts as NDPP was to withdraw charges of fraud and perjury against Jiba relating to her decision to prosecute former KZN Hawks boss General Johan Booysen with racketeering.

Jiba dismissed the idea that Abrahams had shielded her.

"Even if he wanted to protect me, he could not do so," she explained during a meeting in her office at the NPA. She added that once evidence had been found of wrongdoing, and a case registered, it could not just disappear.

She also denied that she had deliberately committed perjury or fraud, intimating that it had been a mistake and denied having any relationship with Watson or Bosasa. Zuma had never spoken to her over any specific NPA matter, she told News24.

Abrahams denied ever discussing the Bosasa matter with Zuma and explained he put his prosecutors under intense pressure to finalise the matter and further denied that he was appointed to protect any NPA official

Chauke denied the "patently false and defamatory allegations" that he said appeared to paint him as being 'captured' by Bosasa, hence Watson's mentioning of his name. He added that the conversation appeared to be between persons involved in "serious criminal conduct".

"He [Chauke] has never in his life, interacted or met with Gavin Watson or anyone at Bosasa. He also wishes to place on record that their hope that he would make the criminal cases against them disappear was misplaced. He took an oath of office as a prosecutor that he has assiduously and over the years abided by," Gauteng NPA spokesperson Phindi Louw said in an emailed response. 

Mti said he had no recollection of ever discussing any matter related to the NPA with Watson and, furthermore, could not recall the meeting captured in the recording. Agrizzi said he could not comment.

Bosasa, meanwhile, refused to answer detailed questions.

"We are aware of a sustained economic sabotage campaign by our former disgruntled employees in cahoots with News24 in an effort to destabilise African Global Operations (Bosasa). African Global Operations or Mr Gavin Watson are more than willing to answer any questions put to us, but we decline to participate or entertain any journalist whose agenda is a trial through public opinion," Bosasa said.

Zuma did not respond to questions emailed to his spokesperson Vukile Mathabela earlier this month.


ALSO READ: Mantashe, Mokonyane scored big in Bosasa bonanza

*Do you have a tip for our investigative journalists? Send an email to tips@24.com

* This report was revised on 28 September 2018 to include the response from Adv Andrew Chauke, as we had not given him an opportunity to respond. We believe that the original story did not implicate Adv Chauke in any wrong-doing, which is why we did not seek his response, for which we apologise.

Read more on:    bosasa  |  npa  |  jacob zuma  |  linda mti  |  shaun abrahams  |  state capture  |  corruption

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