Top ANC MP comes clean on minister's Watson invite
Cedric Frolick says 'nothing wrong' with hospitality for Masutha
Senior ANC MP Cedric Frolick has acknowledged being the person who organised accommodation for minister of justice & correctional services Michael Masutha at a Port Elizabeth home belonging to the controversial Watson family.
Frolick told the Sunday Times he had offered Masutha the accommodation in 2016, when the minister visited the city for an ANC rally ahead of the local government elections.
Masutha revealed in parliament this week that he had spent a weekend at a Watson home, a disclosure that raised eyebrows because the family-owned company African Global Operations, formerly known as Bosasa, has scored contracts worth millions of rands from the department of correctional services.
Frolick told the Sunday Times the home was not owned by Bosasa boss Gavin Watson, but by another Watson family member.
"It is very unfortunate that the hospitality that was availed to minister Masutha and other comrades is viewed in an improper manner," Frolick said.
"This was nothing else but a good gesture by the people of the Friendly City to assist and make visitors feel welcome and at home."
Masutha told parliament that shortly before he left Port Elizabeth, Gavin Watson arrived at the home and tried to discuss Bosasa's contract with the department of correctional services.
But the minister said he had told Watson he did not deal with procurement.
Approached by the Sunday Times to elaborate, Masutha said: "I decided I will not comment further on the matter."
Frolick said he had simply been helping out his comrades. "As a local MP I was tasked to assist where possible; I also received personal requests from comrades I work with to assist in finding suitable accommodation for them and/or their support staff. Some locals voluntarily availed their private accommodation free of charge to comrades."
Frolick confirmed that he had a 20-year relationship with Gavin Watson's brother, Cheeky Watson, but said there was nothing wrong with this. "As a public representative I'm always mindful not to mix personal friendships and acquaintances with their business interests. I thus reject with contempt any attempt to associate me with the Bosasa scandal."
Frolick has previously served as the ANC's cluster whip on social transformation.
He is currently the National Assembly's "chair of chairs", which means the chairs of all parliamentary portfolio committees report to him.
Frolick decides on the budget allocations of committees, their international study tours as well as local oversight visits.
Masutha was attacked by opposition MPs for not adequately dealing with the Bosasa crisis after it emerged that only one official had been suspended in connection with the department's improper dealings with the company.
Bosasa's dirty laundry was aired in public by former COO Angelo Agrizzi at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. Agrizzi revealed details of how the company bribed politicians and government officials to get business and be protected from prosecution.
Among others, Agrizzi implicated former president Jacob Zuma, former SAA chair Dudu Myeni and senior National Prosecuting Authority officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, who are both under suspension.
Last month Agrizzi was arrested along with six others in connection with tender corruption at the correctional services department to the tune of R1.6bn. The accused were released on bail of R20,000 each.
Local banks have terminated their business relationships with the company, making it impossible for it to continue operating.
This week the department of justice was scrambling to find another service provider to replace Bosasa-owned Sondolo IT, which has a contract to provide security services at court buildings across the country.
Masutha said on Friday he did not know whether the procurement process had been finalised by the department.
Correctional services has terminated its nutrition contracts with Bosasa and is expected to finalise the blacklisting of the company and its directors this week.
This means Gavin Watson and other directors of Bosasa may never do business with the state again.
But the department is facing a severe staff shortage and is under pressure from Cosatu-affiliated police union Popcru to absorb the Bosasa employees. However, the Public Servants Association of SA opposes such a move.
Popcru general secretary Nkosinathi Theledi said: "We are coming from the premise that these employees know nothing about the corrupt activities of Bosasa. We are concerned about the plight of workers."
He said though the union had no sympathy for Bosasa executives, it was concerned about the jobs of people lower down the hierarchy.
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