I’m-a-racist Agrizzi hands over state capture stand to ‘fearful’ Van Tonder

Former Bosasa chief operation officer Angelo Agrizzi
Former Bosasa chief operation officer Angelo Agrizzi

It was an unceremonious conclusion to former Bosasa chief operational officer, Angelo Agrizzi’s, testimony before the state capture commission on Tuesday.

One of his final acts before the state capture commission was to hang his head in shame, proclaim that “I am a racist, I know” and plead that his entire testimony not be judged based on this one fact.

This plea from the former facilities company executive came after the state capture commission, as part of its evidence, played an audio recording in which Agrizzi goes on a racist rant. It was allegedly recorded by Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson’s brothers.

The recording was apparently made on August 23 2018 when Watson’s brothers visited Agrizzi at his home “in an attempt at buying his silence”.

He pleaded with the Zondo commission to focus only on the merits of his testimony and not be lost in the “misdirected and unwarranted” racist utterances.

In the recording submitted as evidence, Agrizzi can be heard repeatedly using the K-word and other profanities directed at some of his former black colleagues.

“Although now I know that this was wrong, this was all directed at Joe Gumede and Papa Leshabane. Those two had made threats against me and my family. Yes I was wrong in expressing these sentiments, however, when people wrong you then you may lose your cool,” said Agrizzi.

He tried to justify the utterances, saying he had expressed them in the privacy of his own home, to which the commission chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, responded “what does it matter” and asked him if people were allowed to be racist in their homes.

“There is no excuse,” responded Agrizzi.

Zondo went on to add that Agrizzi’s comments on the recording were extremely offensive and totally unacceptable, however, that did not mean he would not examine Agrizzi’s evidence and decide whether he was telling the truth throughout his testimony.

During this final day of testimony, Agrizzi gave details on how he had reached the conclusion that he would leave the facilities management company.

“I was informed by other directors at Bosasa that there was a plot to pin all the corruption on me,” he told the commission.

He added that a perfect opportunity soon presented itself: he was diagnosed with a heart tumour, operated on and was then forced out by Watson on health-related reasons.

Having left, he said he released a media statement in which he detailed all the rot at Bosasa to get his side of the story out there.

He told the commission that before and after this he received numerous threats, as well as the visit from some the Watson brothers at his home. They tried to “buy his silence with a R50-million guaranteed pay cheque over five years with an initial R10 miilion to be paid immediately. There was also a R250 000 monthly payment to be received as long as I kept my silence”.

Agrizzi’s former colleague Andries van Tonder, who was the chief financial officer at Bosasa, was the next on the witness stand.

He corroborated numerous details and evidence that Agrizzi gave before the commission.

“I indeed took the video that shows the inside of Mr Watson’s vault using my phone’s camera. I had my phone in my shirt pocket. Present during the taking of the video were Gumede, Leshabane and Watson,” said Van Tonder.

He also added that he became aware that Watson planned to pin all the corruption at Bosasa on him and Agrizzi, adding that he was fearful of Watson then and still feared him now due to his connections with influential government officials.

He is set to continue his testimony tomorrow. 
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