President for sale: Watsons 'bought Zuma for R300k a month'

20 January 2019 - 00:03 By QAANITAH HUNTER
Angelo Agrizzi is expected to make more bombshell claims about bribery this week. Picture: Alaister Russell
Angelo Agrizzi is expected to make more bombshell claims about bribery this week. Picture: Alaister Russell

Former president Jacob Zuma allegedly pocketed a R300,000 monthly payment to protect Bosasa chiefs from prosecution for paying millions of rands in bribes to secure lucrative government contracts, the Sunday Times can disclose today.

Details of the payments are set to come before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday morning, in evidence to be presented by former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi. He is now in witness protection as he spills the beans on what is shaping up as a scandal as elaborate as the Gupta furore that helped force Zuma from power early last year.

Bosasa benefited from billions in state contracts by paying off top government officials, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) bosses, MPs and ministers in elaborate schemes to disguise the source of dirty cash used to secure their compliance.

Bosasa is headed by Gavin Watson, one of the controversial Watson brothers who developed close contacts with liberation-struggle figures during the apartheid era.

Agrizzi had South Africans sitting on the edge of their chairs this week with his hair-raising claims about payoffs, including a video of Watson counting alleged bribery cash in stacks in a safe at the company's offices.

But Agrizzi is keeping the best for last, as sources close to commission investigators say he will tell deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo of how Bosasa paid off Zuma and two top officials at the NPA - special director of public prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi and deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba. He will claim they were still receiving their monthly payments when he left the company in 2016.

Bosasa paid Jiba and Mrwebi R100,000 and R10,000 a month respectively, Agrizzi will claim.

Not only that, it also showered Zuma's close friends and confidante, former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni, and Nomvula Mokonyane, now minister of environmental affairs, with expensive gifts.

Watson allegedly gave Myeni an expensive Louis Vuitton handbag stuffed with R300,000 to secure her patronage, while Mokonyane was given whatever she wanted for her alleged role in helping Bosasa secure big contracts, and for her political influence.

Agrizzi is expected to detail how he had been given a list of Christmas groceries to buy for Mokonyane every year since 2002 (see below). These included cases of expensive alcohol and packs of meat. He also paid for repairs to her Roodepoort home. Bosasa also catered at ANC rallies and events organised by Mokonyane at her insistence and hired a car for her daughter.

The commission of inquiry into state capture has heard damning evidence from its surprise witness, Angelo Agrizzi, since Wednesday January 16 2019. Tiso Blackstar associate editor, Ranjeni Munusamy and Sunday Times political reporter, Qaanitah Hunter have a sit-down discussion about what this evidence could mean for the commission, and other witnesses, going forward.

Agrizzi will also tell the commission how Watson travelled to Zuma's Nkandla household to pay him his monthly R300,000 on one occasion, after Watson had become concerned that Myeni, who was acting as the conduit for the payments, was not handing over the full R300,000.

The aim of the payoffs appears to have been to secure the NPA's compliance in not pursuing prosecutions in relation to Bosasa's dodgy state contracts.

In exchange for that money, Zuma was asked to intervene and stop the criminal investigation into Bosasa. Insiders say Agrizzi will claim Zuma personally intervened in setting up a meeting between senior Hawks officials and the company.

Those who have seen Agrizzi's explosive full affidavit say he will detail how, on a separate occasion, Watson told him that he had instructed Zuma to call former Hawks head Anwa Dramat to quash the criminal investigation into Bosasa.

Investigators of the commission have in their possession a recording of Watson boasting about his relationship with Zuma and his ability to influence him in relation to the NPA.

They will also rely on phone signals to corroborate the information provided to them by Agrizzi to confirm that Watson was in Nkandla at the time Agrizzi will allege he was.

So far, a team of investigators working for the commission have also corroborated information that Myeni, who is known to be a Zuma proxy, called for a meeting with Agrizzi and Watson, allegedly to discuss the quashing of the Hawks probe into Bosasa and the pending criminal prosecution by the NPA.

The commission heard last week that Myeni showed the two men confidential information from the NPA at a meeting at the Sheraton hotel in Pretoria. The investigators have found that the carpet in Agrizzi's photos of the meeting match the Sheraton hotel's floor.

Agrizzi is expected to testify under oath that Myeni showed them the police docket on Bosasa and was then instructed to urgently kill the case.

The Hawks have been investigating Bosasa for more than a decade, with their newest head, Godfrey Lebeya, telling parliament in November that the case would be finalised by December. There has been no movement since.

The NPA has been sitting on a "prosecution-ready" report from the Special Investigating Unit on its probe into four tenders awarded to Bosasa by the department of correctional services, worth more than R1.5bn, for 10 years now.

Contacted for comment, Jiba denied stalling the Bosasa case, saying she tried to fast-track it. She said she has already approached the commission to dispute Agrizzi's testimony and said she did not receive a cent from Bosasa or anyone linked to it.

Gavin Watson applauds as Jacob Zuma dances at Zuma's 73rd birthday party.
Gavin Watson applauds as Jacob Zuma dances at Zuma's 73rd birthday party.

"I can subject myself to the commission now because it's so untrue," Jiba said. She was ready to be cross-examined on the matter.

"He said I received R100,000 a month since 2011. That's over R10m. If I got that money, why did I subject myself to all of this at the NPA . I would have resigned."

Jiba said she wants the police to get to the bottom of who took money from Bosasa in her name.

This was echoed by Mrwebi, who said he has approached the commission to refute Agrizzi's version.

He said he would give his version under oath and apply to cross-examine Agrizzi. "In the first place I have not dealt with the Bosasa docket," Mrwebi said.

The two were suspended after President Cyril Ramaphosa instituted inquiries into their fitness to occupy office. The inquiries relate to how the state handled the case against former police crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

Zuma's spokesperson, Vukile Mathabela, did not respond to questions sent to him.

Dudu Myeni's lawyer TC Pilusa responding to questions on Agrizzi's allegations said she [Myeni]fully supported the Commission's work.

He said before answering questions she would have to look into his evidence.

"Our client reserves her rights to take legal actions against anyone who partake in a popularity contest at the commission using her name, including journalists that are being used to tarnish the good name of our client by making false, baseless and unsubstantiated reports.

"Our client is not prepared to wrestle with a pig in the mud."

Editor's note: In a previous version of this article, Myeni had not responded for comment by the time of publishing. Her comment has since been included.

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