The department of correctional services stated in an employee’s disciplinary hearing that the testimony by former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi before the state capture commission do not amount to evidence of any wrongdoing until it was tested.
The hearing concerns a case of misconduct that was opened by the department of correctional services against one of its senior officers, director of corporate services Themba Magagula, who was charged for allegedly backing Agrizzi’s revelations to the commission on Facebook.
But in a scathing judgment last Monday, the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing, advocate Mojalefa Molotsi, dismissed the charges against Magagula, saying the department’s “argument loses sight of the fact that Agrizzi’s testimony was accompanied by video footage of money being packaged and exchanged with beneficiaries”.
“Whether the Agrizzi story might prove to be false or not is not the question; rather, [the issue] is what he [Magagula] said was said within the public domain, thus inviting comments, condemnation or commendation from the public,” said Molotsi in a copy of the ruling that City Press has seen.
The department had previously declined to comment on correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser’s charges against Magagula, saying this was a matter between an employer and employee.
During the hearing, the department’s legal representative argued that Agrizzi’s statements must be tested in a court of law after an investigation by the relevant authorities.
It also said that “for a senior manager to confirm such statement as the truth, is not only irresponsible but prejudices the administration, discipline or efficiency of the department”.
The representative added:
City Press reported that early in March, Magagula reacted to Agrizzi’s testimony by posting about it on his personal Facebook account.
Seemingly upset by the testimony, Magagula declared his support on Facebook for the ANC, but said he doubted that he would still be able to persuade those close to him to vote for the party in the May 8 general polls.
He then pleaded for President Cyril Ramaphosa “to take urgent action on correctional services matters that were raised by Agrizzi [because] there are no lies in what Agrizzi has revealed to the Zondo commission”.
According to documents, the department’s spokesperson, Logan Maistry, saw the posts and brought the matter to the attention of a steering committee, which ordered an investigation.
After seeking legal opinion from the state attorney, Fraser laid three charges of misconduct against Magagula, including “bringing the department into disrepute, [displaying] gross prejudice to the administration, discipline and efficiency of the department, and displaying a conflict of interest”.
In response, Molotsi said: “The employee commented on Facebook about what was largely publicised in the media in general. He was not the creator of the narrative. The fact that he said there was truth in the Agrizzi story, coupled with the fact that he was a senior member of correctional services, cannot make him guilty of bringing the department into disrepute.”
In fact, said Molotsi, “what he said was merely an opinion – not that he had inside information, as insinuated by the employer”.
Nothing in the post suggested that the employee was a senior member of the department, he added, saying: “The witnesses of the employer were firing shots in the dark when suggesting that any person might interpret his posting as official.”
Referring to “some pieces of evidence adduced by the employer” – for example, that the words ‘correctional services’ are a brand or logo – Molotsi said: “That is ridiculous ... How does a person who, in his private capacity, seeks to address the president be said to be abusing his position as an SMS member?”
As part of his duties, Magagula advises Grace Molatedi, regional commissioner for the Gauteng department of correctional services, about human resources policies.
Molatedi, a former deputy regional commissioner of the department in the Free State, was mentioned by Agrizzi in the Zondo commission.
He alleged that she received R150 000 from Bosasa.
Two senior officials serving in the committee that called for a probe into Magagula, Maria Mabena and Jafta Mkhabela, were also mentioned by Agrizzi as being among those who received kickbacks from Bosasa.
Although Agrizzi only mentioned the surname Mkhabela in his testimony, a highly placed department insider, as well as a media report, later identified the official as Jafta Mandla Mkhabela.
In his defence, Magagula accused the department of inconsistency, saying another senior manager, Azwihangwisi Nesengani, made several comments about Bosasa and politics in general for a year, between January 2017 and January 2018.
The department denied this, saying: “An investigation against Nesengani is under way.”
Maistry told the hearing that Nesengani’s online post had “escaped” him.
* In the story “Officer charged with misconduct for backing Agrizzi on Facebook” on October 6 2019, we reported that the department declined to comment. In fact, the department has said: “Labour-related matters between the employer and the employee are confidential, and must remain as such. Discussing such matters in a public platform may cause harm to those involved and the institution.”
The story also referred to a “steering committee” that investigated Themba Magagula.
This is correct in as far as the disciplinary records are concerned, except that the steering committee only resolved that the matter be investigated.
City Press apologises to the department.