Loan agreement was with Angelo Agrizzi, not Bosasa, Vincent Smith testifies

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  • Former ANC MP Vincent Smith has told the Zondo commission he has always supported an investigation by the SIU into Bosasa.  
  • Smith was testifying before inquiry chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, on Friday.  
  • He also told the commission about a loan agreement between him and former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi. 

Former ANC MP Vincent Smith has told the state capture commission of inquiry that a loan agreement made for tuition fees for one of his children, was made personally with Angelo Agrizzi and not with the company Bosasa.

Smith was a former chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on correctional services that investigated Bosasa's involvement in alleged corruption relating to state tenders.

Smith previously confirmed the loan of just over R600 000 in total, made in two separate payments in 2015 and 2016.

During proceedings at the commission on Friday, evidence leader Viwe Notshe asked Smith about various Bosasa- related issues.

Smith was asked about a loan agreement entered into between himself and Agrizzi. He said this was a personal loan agreement with Agrizzi.

Smith required the funds to cover his daughter's university fees and approached Agrizzi as he could not immediately afford the tuition.

His daughter attended Aberystwyth University in Wales.   

"Why did you go and borrow money from a company that is reported to have been involved in corruption?" Notshe quizzed Smith.

Smith denied borrowing money from any company.

READ| Mokonyane 'gifted' R3m Aston Martin on her 50th birthday, state capture inquiry hears

"A loan agreement was between me and Angelo Agrizzi and there is correspondence by way of sms."

Smith said Agrizzi had asked him to help his unemployed son, adding, "I do this all the time in my constituency. He came to me and I indeed did that".

He also added that he approached Agrizzi when his own son developed behavioural problems.

"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."

He said the terms of the contract was that he would repay Agrizzi.

"It was a legitimate loan."

Bosasa meetings

Notshe also referred him to various meeting minutes, some dated from 2009 where the Bosasa issue was raised.

In 2009, the company made headlines, after a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe reportedly found it had bribed former prisons boss Linda Mti and correctional services department chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham to gain billions in tenders from the department.

The unit report was handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in 2009. At the Zondo commission, Smith was also asked about meeting minutes of the portfolio committee in 2011. 

READ| Bosasa scandal 2: Top ANC MP Vincent Smith got cash, CCTV

Notshe said Smith met with Bosasa officials at a hotel in Sandton, while there were negative reports about the company.

In response, Smith said ordinarily, when a new chairperson is elected, stakeholders would introduce themselves, and that was the essence of the first meeting in 2009. 

He said in 2011 Gavin Watson called him, "to do exactly what they wanted to do in 2009".

Smith said he met with other stakeholders. 

Notshe then asked Smith about Agrizzi's claims that Bosasa had "problems" regarding allegations of corruption and they had to speak to Smith so that the, "noise can come down". Asked if he ever discussed the corruption allegation with Watson, Smith said he did not.

Smith said in a committee meeting, he made an undertaking as portfolio chair, "that there is nothing that we must do as members of Parliament that would sabotage the work of the investigation and for me to go outside of that would be to go against a decision I took in a meeting. That is why I was very clear to separate politics from my work as an MP at the time chair".

However, Notshe further asked Smith why he met with Bosasa officials at the hotel. He also asked if he was not "uncomfortable" with the decision to meet the officials. 

Smith said he did indicate to Watson that he would be uncomfortable meeting on his own.

He also told inquiry chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that the committee agreed that the SIU investigation must continue.

'I could not have influenced the department'

Smith said there was nothing untoward in meeting with a stakeholder, "as long I was not on my own, and as long as there were no decisions taken at the meeting and as long as I went to report back". 

He also added: "Whether Mr Watson had me in his pocket or not is a perception, the separation of power just did not allow member of Parliament to get involved in day-to-day working of any department. I could not have influenced the department just by virtue of the separation of powers even if I wanted to."

He also said he had no fear of any influence or pressure put on him. Notshe again put it to Smith that: "We have Mr Agrizzi telling the commission they had a problem with investigations with SIU and as a result of that they were advised to see you... the time you met them at a hotel there was an investigation by SIU and this has already been reported to Parliament and [the] portfolio committee chaired by you. Here you meet in a hotel with a company that has been accused."

ALSO READ| Vincent Smith assisted former Bosasa boss’ son to get ANC job

In response, Smith said he had always been anti-outsourcing and he remained anti-outsourcing.

"This narrative that the 2011 meeting had a sole purpose of softening me up is not supported by the minutes.

"I have no doubt that my stance and the stance of the committee throughout my tenure was not anti-Bosasa, but it was anti-outsourcing.

"It was not an attack on a company but it was an attack on the management style. There were no holy cows. Bosasa was not a holy cow. I don't understand, chair that if I was getting R45 000 to do a job, in other words to be soft on them, three years later I'm still as harsh as I am, and they continue to give me that money. It doesn't make sense to me," he said.

Since 2003, the company has netted government contracts with Airports Company SA and the departments of correctional services, home affairs, and social development worth R10 billion over the next five to 10 years, News24 previously reported.

Smith allegedly received cash from Bosasa in 2015 and 2016 through then chief operations officer at Bosasa Agrizzi.

Smith allegedly accepted the installation of electric fences and a high-end CCTV system worth roughly R200 000 at his home, and allegedly also received R100 000 in cash from Bosasa chief executive officer Gavin Watson every month.

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