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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

How Bosasa’s ‘godfather’ pulled government’s strings

Money didn't just grease wheels, it allegedly greased a lot of palms too.

Former Bosasa chief operations officer (COO) Angelo Agrizzi yesterday wrapped up his two-day supplementary evidence before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture by describing his former boss Gavin Watson as “the godfather” when it came it state capture.

Watson’s modus operandi to influence decision-making in Bosasa’s favour, claimed Agrizzi, included such tactics as:

  • Stuffing the jacket of a powerful African National Congress (ANC) member of parliament (MP), Cedric Frolick, with money. He allegedly later rewarded him with monthly bribes of R40,000.
  • Putting R150,000 in the car boot of then correctional services commissioner Linda Mti – in broad daylight, outside a restaurant.

Said Agrizzi: “While everyone was jittery due to being probed by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in 2009 for corrupt activities, Gavin Watson would always tell us that he had everything under control.

“He said should we be in prison together, we would be like Paul and Silas when prison doors would open through prayer.

“I come from a culture where corruption and bribery were the order of the day. Gavin was a godfather who controlled everything – from cash to hiring and firing.

“He was a Bosasa brand who relied on connections he built with ANC politicians whom he said would ensure a constant flow of tenders.”

Asked by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo how Watson ran Bosasa without a secretary or an office, Agrizzi replied: “He did not like paper, never attached his signature on anything, used the boardroom for meetings and sat in other people’s offices. The only paper he had was a newspaper.

“He would tell us he was taught by (slain SA Communist Party general secretary) Chris Hani how to remember anything.”

“Was Bosasa awarded any contract without paying bribes?” asked Zondo.

“No,” answered Agrizzi.

National Assembly House chairperson Frolick was allegedly engaged as a fixer in 2010 to resolve a stand-off between the controversial facilities management company and fellow ANC MP Vincent Smith, who chaired the portfolio committee on correctional services.

So allegedly close was Frolick to the Watsons that he was recently unmasked as the ANC MP who in 2016 organised Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha’s accommodation at a Port Elizabeth home owned by the family – something Gavin Watson saw as an opportunity to discuss a government catering contract.

According to Agrizzi, however, the Masutha-Watson meeting yielded “no positive results for Bosasa”.

Agrizzi also described the 2010 meeting at the company’s West Rand headquarters that led to Watson allegedly putting a bag of money in Frolick’s jacket. Said Agrizzi: “As chair of the correctional services committee, Vincent Smith at the time was anti-Bosasa and did not want anything to do with the company.

“At that stage Smith was a thorn in the flesh of Bosasa and a major concern to Gavin.

“So, we invited Frolick – who was first introduced to me by Cheeky Watson and fellow MP Butana Komphela – to Bosasa’s offices.

“Of importance, we wanted Frolick and Komphela to talk to Smith and convince him that Bosasa was not a bad company. We wanted him to be persuaded to change his attitude towards Bosasa.”

During the meeting held at the Bosasa boardroom, a document was drawn up that showcased the benefits of correctional services outsourcing work – which included catering – to the company.

“I drew up a letter of introduction meant for Smith, which had to be signed by Watson.

“But Gibson Njenje, who was then Bosasa chair – although for a short while – had to sign the letter. Watson told Frolick to do whatever possible to win over Smith,” said Agrizzi.

After excusing himself from the meeting, Watson went to his vault, where millions used in the alleged bribery of government officials were stashed.

Agrizzi claimed: “I later saw Gavin opening Frolick’s jacket and putting money inside it, which was in a security bag.”

Frolick later set up a meeting in parliament to be attended by Smith, Agrizzi and Njenje.

Although “uncomfortable” in carrying out Watson’s mission to meet Smith, Njenje allegedly relented.

Remembered Agrizzi: “Frolick fetched us from the main parliamentary entrance and escorted us to a specific office where we waited for Smith for a while.

“Frolick later brought Smith and introduced him to us. Smith was visibly annoyed to see us when he walked in. I don’t think he expected to see me there.

“He was abrupt and I gave him company brochures.”

According to Agrizzi, it took a meeting held in 2011 at a hotel on Sandton’s Rivonia Road, attended by Watson, other Bosasa executives, fellow MPs Winnie Ngwenya and Vincent Magagula, for Smith to allegedly end up in the pocket of Watson.

A working relationship between the correctional services department and Bosasa was at the top of the agenda.

Smith is said to have given an undertaking that ANC MPs would ensure that negative media publicity would not preclude further tenders being awarded to Bosasa.

In return for a change of attitude towards Bosasa, Smith was allegedly rewarded with R45,000, Magagula R30,000 and Ngwenya R20,000.

In 2016, Bosasa’s monthly payments to Smith allegedly increased to R100,000, with the company also paying for his daughter’s university fees.

– brians@citizen.co.za

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