How Bosasa's bribes mutilated South Africa's Constitution

Former president Jacob Zuma with Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson. (Supplied)
Former president Jacob Zuma with Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson. (Supplied)

When the Bosasa wolves started paying bribes to members of Parliament, the Constitution of our country was trampled on, dragged into the mud and left for dead.

In a damning indictment of MPs' disregard for their oaths and for the laws they were appointed to care for, it was revealed on Monday at the judicial commission of inquiry in state capture that the empire of bribes built by Bosasa executives gained a foothold in the halls of Parliament.

Three ANC MPs, namely Vincent Smith, Vincent Magagula and Winnie Ngwenya, have been exposed for having accepted monthly cash payments in exchange for deliberately casting aside their role as the last say in oversight over taxpayer funded government departments.

Bosasa needed to ensure that the standing committee on correctional services did not cut off the money taps for its biggest cash cow – contracts to supply food at prisons around the country.

This and other hair-raising bombshells were revealed on Monday by former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi in his fourth day of testimony before deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who heads up the commission.

Agrizzi has delivered a crushing version of wholesale corruption, spanning more than a decade, involving ministers and senior officials.

READ: Bosasa had captured the department, says Agrizzi at #StateCaptureInquiry

Crucially however, his version will need to be corroborated by investigators.

On Monday, Agrizzi delved into arguably his most controversial and damning testimony yet.

He detailed how the 'powerful' Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane was bribed since at least 2002 in exchange for her influence.

Agrizzi testified that after more than a decade of monthly payments to Mokonyane of roughly R50 000 a month, lavish Christmas parties and Bosasa assisting in conducting studies and drafting reports to be submitted as part of tender bids for other third parties, he had misgivings.

"What did Mokonyane actually ever do for us?" was the gist of one his conversations with Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson.

Watson calmed Agrizzi, telling him simply that Bosasa needed Mokonyane for her influence and power.

READ: Mokonyane feels 'betrayed' by Zondo commission for not giving her access to contents of Agrizzi's testimony

This is a damning insight into the modus operandi of the ANC's powerful elite.

It costs a public sector businessman with no qualms a pittance to secure the patronage of a powerful leader.

Agrizzi then revealed how MPs were bribed for years, since at least 2011.

And when two of the MPs, Ngwenya and Magagula, were removed from the correctional services committee, the money taps dried up.

For Smith, the money not only kept flowing, but increased.

By 2016, Smith was allegedly being paid R100 000 a month – more than the average annual household income for poverty-stricken citizens of South Africa.

Bosasa paid the university fees for his daughter, who studied at an exclusive school in Wales.

READ: Top ANC MP Vincent Smith got cash, CCTV

It is this brazen disregard for the rule of law, and the willingness of our constitutionally mandated lawmakers to leave ethics and morals at the door, that is most worrying.

Agrizzi's evidence on Monday is nothing short of insight into how treason comes to pass.

It shows how Bosasa usurped Parliament's oversight role with willing participants, and manipulated systems meant to safeguard public money.

This shows that the methods Bosasa was forced to use to keep its corrupt tender machine operating grew steadily more egregious as it required a higher level of cunning and criminality to evade justice.

It also shows a dismal failure by our legal framework and criminal justice system, designed to discourage and prevent the criminally inclined from executing their darkest desires.

Agrizzi and Bosasa are a case study for the worst possible outcome of greed that was allowed to run rampant, and if not for mechanisms such as the state capture commission, the horrifying truth is that we may never have uncovered the full extent of the rot.

Agrizzi is being applauded for his courage and determination, but his motives are questioned at every turn, and every piece of information will be interrogated and finally, the guilty must be prosecuted.

No testimony before the Zondo commission has yet highlighted the need for a reform of our justice system more starkly.

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