- Friday saw former chairperson of the portfolio committee on correctional services Vincent Smith take the stand at the commission of inquiry into state capture.
- Smith testified about his relationship with Bosasa executives Gavin Watson and Angelo Agrizzi.
- He talked about his dealings with them and the benefits he received – including a hefty loan and a hired car.
'It was a loan from Agrizzi, not Bosasa'
Speaking on a loan he received from former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi totalling more than R600 000, Smith said the agreement was made with Agrizzi personally and not with Bosasa.
The loan was for his daughter's university tuition and was paid in two separate payments in 2015 and 2016.
When asked by evidence leader advocate Viwe Notshe why he borrowed money from "a company that is reported to have been involved in corruption", Smith replied that he did not borrow money from any company.
"A loan agreement was between me and Angelo Agrizzi and there is correspondence by way of SMS," Smith said.
He added that Agrizzi had asked him to help his unemployed son, saying "I do this all the time in my constituency".
"My loan was with Angelo. Nowhere in the records of the deposit is there any reference to Bosasa.
"I had gone to Angelo Agrizzi on the basis of the relationship we created. It was never ever a Bosasa agreement."
Smith added that, in terms of the contract, he would repay Agrizzi.
'I should have declared it'
A section of Smith's testimony focused on his failure to declare certain benefits given to him by Bosasa executives Agrizzi and the company's late CEO, Gavin Watson.
Of particular concern was the loan given to him by Agrizzi, as well as a vehicle hired by Bosasa and lent to Smith's daughter.
Commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked Smith whether he thought about declaring this loan.
He agreed with Zondo that the loan should have been declared.
"Of course, somebody listening to your evidence, and having listened to Mr Agrizzi's version about this payment, might say the reason why you didn't disclose it is because it was not a legitimate loan – there was no loan. If it was a loan you regarded as legitimate you would have easily disclosed it," Zondo said.
Smith replied that he "could have been incorrect" but the transaction reflected as a loan within the company.
Smith also said he had approached Watson for a car that his daughter could use as a "little run-around" but did not know it would be a car hired by Bosasa and not Watson himself.
This too, Smith admitted, he did not declare to Parliament.
Bosasa meeting was normal
Following a 2009 meeting between Smith and Bosasa officials, during a time when the company had received negative publicity, Smith told the commission there was nothing untoward about this.
During this time, a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe reportedly found that Bosasa had bribed senior officials within the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) in return for a tender from the department.
But Smith said ordinarily, when a new chairperson was elected, stakeholders would introduce themselves, and that was the purpose of this first meeting.
Asked if he did not feel uncomfortable about this meeting, Smith said he indicated to Watson that he would be uncomfortable if he met them on his own.
Information on what was taking place in DCS
During cross-examination, advocate Moroka Phalane read aloud vague messages between Agrizzi and Watson which seemingly implied that Smith had been knowingly involved in business with the two executives.
The messages, sent in 2016, seemingly spoke about Smith asking the two to hold off on something pending a meeting Smith was to have with officials at the DCS.
In the message, Watson said Smith requested they continue with preparations for a meeting.
Smith said while he accepted his name was mentioned in the messages, he did not have any knowledge of what the two were discussing.
"In response to your questions, at that time I was no longer the chairperson [of the portfolio committee on correctional services]. The chairperson at the time, I think, was my senior.
"I would never undermine my senior by going to work with officials in a department where I am not the chairperson. I understand what they're saying here, but I wasn't privy to what they were discussing," Smith said.
While Zondo said the messages seem to suggest Smith was working on something with the two, Smith said that in 2016, "there was nothing that I could have been working [on] with them".
In an SMS from Watson to Agrizzi, he said: "When I said it is a meeting for Tuesday, to give us more information on how to approach this thing. This is why he is having a meeting to give us more information on what is taking place at DCS."
Agrizzi replied that by 08:30 "I need confirmed drafting papers otherwise we miss the deadline".
But Smith reiterated to Zondo that he did not meet with the officials mentioned in the messages in 2016.
Zondo said Agrizzi might need to provide more context to these messages.
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