To forgive or not? Radio callers debate Angelo Agrizzi k-word apology

03 July 2019 - 10:10 By Iavan Pijoos
'I regretted it, I apologised and I stand by my apology,' Angelo Agrizzi said.
'I regretted it, I apologised and I stand by my apology,' Angelo Agrizzi said.
Image: Alaister Russell

South Africans were on Wednesday asked by a caller to a radio station to forgive state capture whistleblower Angelo Agrizzi for his racial slurs, but not all agreed.

The request was made while the former Bosasa COO was being interviewed on Radio 702's breakfast show by host Bongani Bingwa.

"Bongani, give that man a Bells. After all the threats he received, he still continues to spill the beans," the caller, Aubrey, said.

He referred to Agrizzi as the prodigal son in The Bible.

"He has done wrong, but he has asked for forgiveness from us. Let's forgive him and let us not see colour."

Another caller did not agree: "I don't get it. Why is he [Aubrey] giving him Bells. You cannot give the man a Bells who calls us black people the k-word.

"What would satisfy me is to see him in prison. Even if they apologise, that is how they will always see us."

In an audio clip played during Agrizzi’s testimony at the state capture inquiry, he could be heard using the k-word numerous times, while laughing with those he was in conversation with.

Agrizzi has since apologised and agreed to pay R200,000 to the Barney Mokgatle Foundation in Alexandra, Johannesburg, as a sign of reparation.

"To tell the truth, I understand people are upset and I cannot apologise more, I cannot do more.

"Take into consideration that we [had] gone out there as whistleblowers and lifted the lid on corruption," Agrizzi said on the show.

Asked by Bingwa why he had used the derogatory term, Agrizzi said it was out of anger and frustration.

"I regretted it, I apologised and I stand by my apology."

Agrizzi testified at the inquiry that controversial facilities company Bosasa allegedly lined the pockets of ANC heavyweights and state officials in exchange for furthering its business interests with the government.

Agrizzi, who was CEO Gavin Watson’s right-hand man, said Bosasa spent between R4m and R6m a month on bribes to help it win lucrative contracts with the government.

"How corrupt is the ANC at the top?" Bingwa asked Agrizzi.

The 51-year-old declined to answer the question, saying it would be presumptuous for him to do so and it was up to the courts to decide.

Agrizzi told Bingwa that he regretted not collecting more evidence at Bosasa.

"I would have collected more information over a longer period of time so that I'd have more substantive information for them. Unfortunately, a lot of information was wiped. I couldn't get it, even though we had whistleblowers inside. Everything was blocked immediately after blowing the whistle."

He told Bingwa that the company "corrupted him", saying before then he had lived a "clean and wonderful life".

He said it "started off very small", where he would pack bags with R20,000 in bribes. He said the company also had clothing accounts with which they would buy "certain individuals" a coat or a pair of shoes.

Later, Watson had asked him to do bigger amounts, he said.

Agrizzi said he was offered R60m for his silence.  

Asked to comment on the statement that former president Jacob Zuma did not agree with his testimony, Agrizzi said "the facts are the facts".

"I didn't hold anything back. The fact that Zuma doesn't agree with me, he must come to the commission and cross-examine me."

In May, Agrizzi was robbed of items valued at R378,000 at a filling station in Fourways, Johannesburg.

In the interview, he denied claims that the robbery was staged.

"It would be very difficult to stage a hijacking when a gun is pointed at your head.  

"At one stage I believed I was targeted. I am very double-minded about it. Was I targeted as an individual or was I targeted [because] of my testimony at the commission?"