Bosasa, Waterkloof and rumours: Explosive testimonies at the Zondo Commission
Johannesburg - The Zondo commission marked its first anniversary this year. The commission saw some explosive testimonies from various individuals, all adding to the intrigue, and more questions about the extent of the allegations of state capture.
Here’s a list of some of the colourful characters that made an appearance and what they said on the stand.
Agrizzi blew the lid off on allegations of corruption by directors and managers at his former company Bosasa, later known as African Global Operations. He began in January and testified over several days and returned months later to wrap up his evidence.
Agrizzi worked as a chief operating officer (COO) at Bosasa and was a right-hand man to the company’s CEO Gavin Watson. He told the state capture inquiry that Watson kept a safe filled with cash. The money was intended to bribe various government officials who helped Bosasa secure government contracts. Bosasa specialised in security services. Agrizzi wove a link between the contracts secured by Bosasa and bribery of government officials. He said former correctional services officials Lina Mti and Patrick Gillingham had been bribed with cash, cars, houses and vacations by Watson for their assistance in ensuring that Bosasa secured government contracts.
Agizzi also alleged that former NPA officials Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, who he referred to with the code names “snake” and “snail”, had been bribed with cash payments to ensure that a corruption case against Bosasa was not prosecuted. Jiba and Mrwebi have denied the claims.
Agrizzi’s appearance at the inquiry led to a tailspin of reactions as he was arrested along with others to face charges of fraud, money laundering of over a billion rand. Bosasa also faced a tough time as the company had its assets auctioned off recently to pay off creditors. Watson also died mysteriously in a car crash outside OR Tambo International Airport.
The former ambassador to the Netherlands appeared in July and made a shocking admission that he was to blame for the controversial landing of a jet carrying Gupta guests.
The incident took place in April 2013 when the guests arrived in the country to attend the wedding of a Gupta relative in Sun City, North West.
Koloane admitted that he abused former president Jacob Zuma’s name to put pressure on officials to ensure that the jet could land at Waterkloof Air Force Base - a national key point.
The landing was widely criticised and put the spotlight on the Gupta family’s power and connections within government and their relationship with Zuma.
The former president’s long-awaited appearance at the inquiry took place in July and saw him address questions related to his relationship with the Guptas and allegations of corruption for the first time.
Zuma started off his testimony by reading a statement which broadly spoke to an alleged campaign to assassinate his character which he said began in the ’90s. “There has been a plan to deal with Zuma and Zuma has been dealt with all the time.”
The former president said he had been blamed for many things, including the controversial arms deal which he believed was all part of a campaign to tarnish his name.
He faced questions regarding testimony presented by other witnesses at the commission. Asked about a call he allegedly made to former GCIS chief executive Themba Maseko instructing him to help the Guptas, Zuma denied any such call.
He also denied having ever met former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor who testified that Zuma was present when she went to meet with a Gupta brother at the family’s compound in Saxonwold.
The son of the former president appeared at the inquiry in October. He had been implicated in testimony by former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.
Zuma was asked about the October 23, 2015, meeting in which Jonas alleged he was taken to the Gupta compound by Zuma. He also alleged that a Gupta brother offered him R600million if he took up the position of finance minister as Nhlanhla Nene was going to be fired. Zuma admitted that he met Jonas on October 23, 2015, and that he was joined by businessman Fana Hlongwana.
He also admitted that the meeting first took place at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosebank and then moved to the Gupta compound in Saxonwold.
He denied Jonas’ version that he was never told that the meeting would be taking place at the Gupta compound.
Zuma’s version of events was that the meeting between him, Jonas and Hlongwane related to rumours that were circulating that Jonas had accused Hlongwane of blackmailing him.
Zuma said he decided he would break the ice between the two old friends by facilitating the meeting. This was notwithstanding the fact that he did not know Jonas personally and did not even have his number.
Zuma admitted that he had taken former KZN Hawks boss Johan Booysen to the Gupta compound to meet Tony Gupta in 2014.
He said this visit was simply a “meet and greet”.
He denied meeting with former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi and pressuring him to meet with Tony Gupta. Ramatlhodi had said the interaction took place at the St Georges Hotel.
The former SABC chief operating officer appeared at the inquiry in September. He faced questions regarding his handling of the decision to change the SABC’s editorial policy and the firing of SABC employees who went against the policy.
SABC employees, including Krivani Pillay, Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki and Foeta Krige were part of the so-called “SABC 8” who faced a disciplinary hearing and were later fired by the public broadcaster. Their dismissal was successfully challenged in court. Motsoeneng said it was unfair that he was slapped with a cost order regarding the dismissal of journalists when he was not the one who fired them.
The businessman was also implicated in Jonas’ testimony. He appeared in November and denied the bulk of Jonas’ accusations. He, Zuma junior and Jonas agreed that a meeting took place at the Gupta compound in Saxonwold in October 2015, but the contents of that meeting were disputed. Hlongwane said the reason for the October 23, 2015, meeting was to sort out issues and rumours of blackmail. He said for a while Zuma had been telling him about rumours circulating that he was trying to blackmail Jonas. He said he agreed that Zuma organise the meeting, but was not comfortable with it at the Hyatt and requested they move.
He said he knew the venue for the meeting was the Gupta residence, but said Zuma decided on the venue. He denied that a Gupta brother had joined the meeting, and said there may have been someone who walked in, but the meeting was between the three.
“There were several interruptions, indeed someone did pop in and I do believe it was a member of the Gupta family. There were interruptions, people coming in for coffee, but there was no one who joined us for the meeting,” Hlongwane said.