EXCLUSIVE | Inside Angelo Agrizzi's hospital ward: Cardiac arrest, failing kidneys compound respiratory condition
Angelo Agrizzi’s partner, Debbie Agrizzi, has broken her silence about his state of health, telling TimesLIVE that he is in a critical condition at a private hospital in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs after suffering a heart attack on Wednesday morning.
Agrizzi, the former COO of Bosasa, was transferred to the private hospital this week after being denied bail last week by the Palm Ridge magistrate's court where he faces charges of bribery and corruption in connection with R800,000 paid to top ANC politician Vincent Smith.
“He is currently in a critical condition. He has thus far been placed on three different forms of life support. We have been informed that he is currently on an internal ventilator. He has also been placed on dialysis, as his kidneys are failing,” Debbie said in response to questions sent to her.
“He has been receiving medication to keep his blood pressure up. We were informed that on the morning of October 21 [Wednesday], he went into cardiac arrest and needed to be revived by the medical staff.”
Agrizzi was denied bail after the court heard last week Wednesday that he posed a flight risk because he had made R24m in deposits in offshore accounts and bought property and a luxury car in Italy.
These transfers and purchases were made between 2018 and early last year, just days before Agrizzi testified at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.
None of this had been declared in his affidavit before court and were among the reasons that magistrate Phillip Venter denied him bail.
On Wednesday night, Debbie told TimesLIVE that even before appearing before the Zondo commission, Agrizzi’s health was poor and that he was suffering from “respiratory conditions relating to decreased oxygen levels”.
Nine armed guards - three inside his ICU room - are on watch over Angelo Agrizzi, tied to his hospital bed, this despite him being sedated, intubated and on dialysis.Debbie Agrizzi
“His condition has since deteriorated further to the extent that he required hospitalisation before his appearance in the Palm Ridge magistrate's court. His doctors placed him on oxygen, which he is currently permanently dependent on,” she said. “Angelo has also experienced ill effects relating to diabetes and high blood pressure.”
On Thursday last week, Agrizzi’s family was told by a representative of the department of correctional services that he had been transferred from Johannesburg Prison to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital “as his health had deteriorated”.
“We did discover that while at Chris Hani Baragwanath, Angelo — despite being intubated and sedated — was guarded by three armed guards,” Debbie said.
“We are aware that he was found to be unconscious [at Chris Hani Baragwanath on] the morning of [Friday] October 16 but do not know any further details as we did not receive any updates from the department of corrections.”
Debbie said that on Monday, doctors at the state hospital asked for him to be transferred to a private hospital.
“I believe that Chris Hani Baragwanath did not have any beds available in ICU or high care and therefore recommended he be transferred,” Debbie said.
“After he was transferred, the department of corrections took further measures and placed nine armed guards on watch with three armed guards being placed in his actual ICU room. Further, despite being sedated, intubated, on dialysis and on various drips, they further restrained him by his legs to his hospital bed.”
'Sledgehammer' book deal falls through
TimesLIVE has also learnt that Agrizzi’s memoir, Inside The Belly of the Beast: The Real Bosasa Story, which was set to hit the shelves in two weeks, has been dropped by NB Publishers after Agrizzi’s failed bail application last week in which he was found not to have disclosed his offshore investments.
Earlier this year, NB Publishers had to withdraw the book The Lost Boys of Bird Island which made paedophilia claims about apartheid-era cabinet ministers. Its parent company, Media24, paid a R3m settlement to apartheid finance minister Barend du Plessis and tendered an unreserved apology.
NB Publishers spokesperson Jean Pieters said: “We decided to step away from the publication of the book and allow the rights to revert to the author after recent reports that the author had committed perjury in his bail application. The decision was unrelated to the withdrawal of The Boys of Bird Island.”
TimesLIVE has further learnt that Agrizzi’s memoir will be published as planned, in an as-yet undisclosed imprint.
Benjamin Trisk, the CEO of CNA who has ordered half of the print run, has expressed his support for the book.
“It is vital for our civil society that books of this kind should be published and supported by the public at large.
“The Zondo commission has been a vital part of an unfolding narrative that has at last shone a light on the darkest corners of our recent history. In this work, Angelo Agrizzi’s testimony as a whistleblower has been invaluable and (whatever his flaws and recent motivation might have been) there is no question that this is an important book that rightfully takes its place alongside other pivotal books such as The President’s Keepers and Gangster State. This is a sledgehammer of a book,” Trisk said.
Debbie Agrizzi said the family was hopeful Agrizzi would pull through and were grateful for the updates on his health they were receiving from his doctors, “but the fact that the department of corrections as well as the NPA have given us little to no updates, does not give us any comfort”.
Asked for her response to those who believe Agrizzi is angling for medical parole in the same manner as Schabir Shaik, she said: “The medical records speak for themselves.”
“Angelo has never needed to prove anything to anyone and despite being compared to certain individuals, Angelo, since coming forward to the Zondo commission and authorities, has been at the forefront of exposing corruption in SA despite personal risk to himself and his family.
“Angelo has done and will continue to do more to fight and expose corruption in SA regardless of what people on social media comment.”
Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi’s former PA, Gina Pieters, took the stand at the state capture inquiry on September 2 2020. She laid out how Bosasa executives made sure that flowers, hampers and other “surprises” would be sent to then minister of environmental affairs Nomvula Mokonyane and her PA, Sandy Thomas.
Debbie said her partner’s memoir was “part of his legacy and it goes without saying that I will fight for this book to be published for people to hear Angelo’s truth and thereafter they can make their own decisions”.
About allegations that he was trying to hide his assets abroad, Debbie said the “allegation of non-disclosure is masking the fact that he in fact did make disclosure to the correct authorities, being the SA Revenue Service and Reserve Bank”.
“What most critics are forgetting is that all of the information that Angelo has testified to and exposed has been verified as correct by the investigators at the state capture commission,” she said.
“We don’t intend fighting against people’s opinions of Angelo but regardless of their opinions, this will not stop him from continuing to fight and expose corruption.
“It can be argued that Angelo started the state capture investigations and exposed corruption in areas that most South Africans did not know existed, so it is indeed disappointing that the public can turn on him so quickly. But this has never deterred Angelo and most certainly will not now.”