Jacob Zuma 'pressure' paid Hlaudi Motsoeneng's R1m bill
Ex-president said to have pressured Bosasa to help pay Hlaudi's legal bills
Former president Jacob Zuma allegedly strong-armed Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson to pay more than R1m towards axed SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng's legal fees.
Zuma allegedly sent his "messenger", former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni, to plead with Watson, who was reportedly not keen to pay the bill.
Motsoeneng used all possible legal avenues to try to keep his R4.2m-a-year job with the public broadcaster before he was fired in June last year. Three months later the Labour Court found that he had to pay part of the legal costs incurred over the wrongful dismissal of eight SABC employees.
Motsoeneng went to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration in his fight to be reinstated. He has also gone to the high court in Johannesburg seeking his pension. Both cases are still ongoing.
Bosasa, which is now known as African Global Operations, this week declined to discuss the payment, beyond saying its board "is in the process of appointing an independent party to investigate those allegations".
Two people with close knowledge of the company's operations told the Sunday Times this week that Zuma and Myeni had persuaded Watson to foot Motsoeneng's legal fees.
One of them said: "When Zuma initially asked Watson to pay the legal fees, the businessman wasn't keen. Then the former president sent his messenger, Dudu Myeni, to convince Watson to change his mind, and the fees were paid.
"Bosasa was used as an ATM for politicians and those who are politically connected."
The Sunday Times has seen an affidavit by a former tax consultant confirming that Watson instructed him to pay R1,187,656.82 towards Motsoeneng's legal fees in August last year.
He said he later "received an invoice from Walter Jele from Majavu Attorneys" and paid the money in two instalments: R600,000 on August 20 last year and R587,656.82 the following day.
Motsoeneng's lawyer, Zola Majavu, confirmed that Jele works for him and that his law firm received "a payment for Hlaudi around about the same".
He said the SABC had frozen Motsoeneng's pension at the time and that the former SABC boss had bills to pay. "Hlaudi raised the money from where he could so he could pay some of us and I never asked where it came from."
On Friday Motsoeneng confirmed that Bosasa paid for his legal fees, but declined to say who had asked Watson to come to his rescue.
"Gavin is the best person to answer your questions, I can't comment … since the company involved is also not willing to discuss the matter with you. I am a private citizen now and this is a private matter," he said.
Motsoeneng said he still regarded Zuma as "my president" and Myeni as his sister, and that the three always supported one another.
"I have known Zuma for many years, since my days as a reporter for the SABC, and our relationship has nothing to do with politics. If I support my president [Zuma] whenever he goes to court as a matter of principle, then why can't he support me?"
He could not stop Myeni "if she decides to get people to help me", Motsoeneng said. "We are under siege, hence we support one another like brothers and sisters."
It was revealed earlier this month that Vincent Smith, the ANC chair of the justice & correctional services portfolio committee in parliament, received R670,000 in cash from Bosasa over three years. Smith admitted receiving the cash but claimed it was a loan from former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi. Agrizzi denied giving Smith any loan, and said Watson had ordered him to pay Smith.
Bosasa also donated R3.5m to the Jacob G Zuma Foundation, which Myeni chairs. Some of the money was allegedly used for Zuma's birthday parties, which were attended by the company's executives.
Bosasa has benefited from state contracts worth billions of rands over the years. The company's biggest government partners include the departments of justice and correctional services. Contracts include security, fencing of prisons, feeding and transporting refugees, and detaining juvenile offenders.
Bosasa spokesperson Papa Leshabane did not respond to specific questions, but said: "We are aware of a sustained economic sabotage campaign by former disgruntled employees in cahoots with the media … In recent weeks many allegations have been levelled against our company in the media. Our board is in the process of appointing an independent party to investigate … Until the investigation is finalised we will not be able to comment."
Zuma and Myeni failed to respond to questions sent to them on Friday.