Opinion

Sickening testimony suggests we now have the Zatsons as well as the Zuptas

27 January 2019 - 00:00


Angelo Agrizzi knew he was about to stop traffic. As the secret recording he made of a conversation between him, his former Bosasa boss Gavin Watson and former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti was cued up to be played at the Zondo commission, Agrizzi wore a smug look.
The recording confirmed the ability of crooked businessmen to press former president Jacob Zuma's buttons and influence appointments in government.
By now, most people know that Zuma had multiple paymasters and used the presidency to service them rather than the citizenry.
Still, it was sickening to hear the conceit in Watson's voice as he rehearsed how he would give the president instructions to install stooges in key positions in the criminal justice system in order to protect his corruption network.
Watson's bragging resembled what Mcebisi Jonas, Themba Maseko and Vytjie Mentor testified to last year about the Guptas flaunting their relationship with Zuma and their hold over him.
There was clearly a lot of plotting and preparation that led to Agrizzi presenting a mountain of damning evidence to the state capture inquiry.
His intention was to expose the bribery ecosystem he helped build for Bosasa and implicate all those in the company and in government who participated in grand corruption.
Over the past week, Agrizzi has earned the legend of a patriotic mobster, someone who emerged from the dark side to expose a network of paymasters, handlers, fixers, compromised government officials and ignoble politicians.
Those who have been implicated, like environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane, ANC MP Vincent Smith, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, a host of correctional services officials, and Watson and his cohorts, have yet to show that Agrizzi is lying.
Agrizzi's evidence is also instructive on how the NPA was so central to the successful capture of the state. Up to now, South Africans have been angered that despite the volumes of available documentary evidence of corruption, money laundering and fraud, particularly what came to light through the Gupta e-mails, there is as yet not a single case that can stand in court.
This has been ascribed to the incompetence of former national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams and the NPA's lack of will to touch explosive cases.
But thanks to Agrizzi, we now have insight into the active collusion between the criminal networks and senior officials of the NPA to quash cases. In his evidence, Agrizzi related that Mti, who acted as handler for Jiba, Mrwebi and another official, Jackie Lapinka, had given him notes on how to get the Bosasa case killed off.
He claimed that Mti had received detailed instructions from Jiba on the arguments Bosasa's lawyers needed to submit in his representations to the NPA. These included that any possible prosecution would be "fruit from a poisoned tree" as the investigation had been "contaminated" and was "unconstitutional", that the case was politically motivated, there was persecution by the media and therefore unlikely to be a fair trial, and the toll it had taken on affected families and businesses.
These were the same arguments Zuma and the Guptas put forward in response to allegations against them. You have to wonder whether they had advice from the same source.
The biggest fallacy is that the era of government officials colluding with criminals is behind us.
Just this week the corruption charges against Duduzane Zuma were provisionally withdrawn. The NPA said it wanted to wait for Jonas to complete his evidence at the Zondo commission before proceeding.
This is bizarre.
Jonas testified that the Hawks head of the anti-corruption unit, Maj-Gen Zinhle Mnonopi, had tried to force him, in the presence of his lawyer, to sign a statement to help them "kill the case". He said Mnonopi presented him with a fabricated statement, which she said had been "settled" by a prosecutor.
This suggested collusion between the Hawks and NPA to defeat the ends of justice.
Duduzane was charged in July last year, almost six weeks before Jonas testified, with corruption stemming from this contaminated docket. He was charged for "offering an unauthorised gratification to a public figure", which Jonas never claimed he did.
Jonas's evidence is that Duduzane took him to the Guptas' Saxonwold house where a Gupta brother offered him a bribe.
So either the prosecutors did not understand the case or worked to deliberately sabotage it. The result is that Duduzane, like his father, can now claim to be victimised, particularly if the case is reinstated on the correct charges.
Agrizzi's explosive evidence showed new levels of deceit and manipulation of the state to facilitate and protect corruption.
It took a master crook to give us this insight.
With all that we know now, is it not time to stop treating criminals like celebrities and entertainers and demand justice?

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