KZN prisons boss suspended amid Bosasa bribe claims

23 January 2019 - 19:51 By JEFF WICKS
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Mnikelwa Nxele. File photo
Mnikelwa Nxele. File photo
Image: Gallo Images/Sowetan/Thuli Dlamini

KwaZulu-Natal prisons head Mnikelwa Nxele - implicated in jarring state capture testimony by former Bosasa executive Angelo Agrizzi - has been suspended.

Nxele was fingered by Agrizzi in an alleged plot to "place undue pressure" on former department of correctional services (DCS) national commissioner Vernie Petersen in 2007 - allegedly accepting bribes from the firm to the value of about R57,500 a month.

Department of correctional services (DCS) spokesman Logan Maistry told TimesLIVE that Nxele had been placed on “precautionary suspension”.

But he stressed that “the process relating the precautionary suspension [of Nxele] commenced before testimony relating to the DCS before the state capture commission of inquiry.”

He said that it was the “culmination of a process that commenced early January 2019.”

“As this matter relates to an employment relationship, DCS is unable to provide further details,” Maistry added.

On Tuesday, during his testimony before the state capture commission, Agrizzi revealed details of an attempt by the company in 2007 to bribe senior officials at DCS in order to undermine Petersen, who had just been appointed.

Agrizzi said Petersen "would have nothing to do with the Bosasa group of companies" so a meeting was allegedly co-ordinated with senior officials, such as former DCS national commissioner Khulekani Sithole, and someone whom he described as "Sbu" from the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru).

"The subject was how they could swing Petersen and get to a solution where he would start communicating with Bosasa. It was agreed that they would be paid R1m a month. That was for the team. How they would distribute it I had no clue," Agrizzi said.

He said Nxele was part of that team and recalled one meeting at the Intercontinental Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport where he had handed money to Nxele.

"The meeting started very cordial. Nxele was in full uniform and I commented on how smart he looked. This was my very first meeting with him. He said he was unhappy with the amount that was paid to him and that he would convey this dissatisfaction to (Bosasa CEO) Gavin Watson," Agrizzi said.

Nxele was approached for comment but had not responded at the time of publishing.

The controversial prisons head was suspended previously after allegations of “gross insubordination” surfaced in 2016. He challenged his suspension in court and was successfully reinstated in his post.

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