Angelo Agrizzi has a handmade ‘state capture’ chess set, and he’s a piece

One of the whistleblowers' prized possessions, it also features Gavin Watson with 'bribe money' in one hand and a Bible in the other.


Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi has dominated the news agenda for the past week thanks to his explosive revelations and allegations at the Zondo commission.

However, his intention to become a whistle-blower has been months in the making.

He revealed last week that it was a guilty conscience that prompted him to approach the state capture inquiry to spill the beans on what he called “illegal activities” by Bosasa (now African Global Operations) to obtain tenders from government and the private sector.

An Italian with an expensive taste for flashy cars, particularly Ferraris, and gifts, Agrizzi worked for African Global for 17 years.

When he arrived at the inquiry last week he was accompanied by heavily armed security guards, and pulled no punches on the workings of the company and its chief executive officer, Gavin Watson.

On Tuesday night this week, Agrizzi mentioned to The Citizen that one of his prized possessions is a state capture-themed chess set, sculpted by local artist Darren Aiken.

He commissioned the set from Aiken about 18 months ago, around the time he was leaving Bosasa.

Aiken told The Citizen on Wednesday morning that he thinks of his chess sets as political satire, akin to to him being the “Zapiro of chess sculptures”. His sets, which are often commissioned by clients asking for unique touches, sell for around R8,500, and he’s been producing them since 1997.

He began by sculpting the new South African government and its leaders on one side, with the old government on the other, while including figures such as Evita Bezuidenhout of Bapetikosweti, a fictional homeland during the apartheid years created by satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys.

He said he created a set once for then president Jacob Zuma in 2012 – a major chess enthusiast – which was paid for by Bosasa as a gift.

In Agrizzi’s chess set, Gavin Watson is sculpted as a man with a briefcase full of cash apparently intended for Zuma.

The Watson figure is also clutching a Bible under his arm to symbolise Bosasa’s “Christian culture” – Agrizzi told the commission prayers were held daily at the company’s offices.

The figurine of Gavin Watson and his briefcase of “Zuma cash”.

The figurine of Gavin Watson and his Bible.

Agrizzi is sculpted wearing his beloved Ferrari colours and “blowing the whistle”, suggesting he’d been meaning to expose the goings-on at Bosasa for some time.

Proclaiming himself Watson’s right-hand man last week, he presented an affidavit with a table of figures, setting out his income in salaries, gifts, cash and cars between 1999 and 2017 – easily totalling R50 million over that period.

A combination of a settlement and retention agreement paid to him by the company in 2017 stood at R27.3 million.

The figurine of Angelo Agrizzi.

Agrizzi told the commission on Wednesday last week that it had taken him so long to come clean because: “I’d become blunt in understanding what was happening at this stage, I’d become very accepting, and unfortunately it happens to a lot of people.”

He further urged others with evidence of state capture and similar transgressions, in particular those within Bosasa, “to start coming forward as well”.

“So, I was blunt, I kept quiet, and I should have exposed unlawful activities from day one,” Agrizzi said.

“I had a near-death experience where I was admitted to hospital and I had a tumour in my heart. I was in a coma and, when I came out of the coma, myself and my family had made a conscious decision that we would clean up where we had made mistakes before,” Agrizzi said.

Pretorius asked Agrizzi if he was aware his testimony also incriminated himself, to which he replied: “I am well aware.” On why he worked for Bosasa, he said: “I am a Christian. One of the reasons I joined Bosasa is because I was told the company was run in a similar manner. There were daily prayer meetings. It turned out to be a mockery – a cult.”

Agrizzi has painted a picture of a company that pulled strings to get what it wanted – often changing structures, names of subsidiaries and shareholders.

Other characters in his chess set include Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Julius Malema, the Gupta brothers, Shaun Abrahams, Bathabile Dlamini, Mcebisi Jonas, Thuli Madonsela, Vytjie Mentor, Pravin Gordhan, and more. The pawns on either side are represented, respectively, by either briefcases featuring the names of people who were allegedly captured, and IEC voting boxes on the other side symbolising that the battle of state capture is about democracy versus corruption.

Take a look for yourself:

Jacob Zuma and Gavin Watson, with Dudu Myeni and Khomotso Phahlane symbolised by briefcases.

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The ‘anti-state capture’ side of the board.

The ‘pro-state capture side of the board’.

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