The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture, otherwise known as the Zondo Commission after its chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, really came alive in 2019, beginning with the explosive testimony of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Aggrizi early in the year.
The commission owes its existence to the State of Capture report penned by the former Public Protector, advocate Thuli Madonsela in 2017.
Unlike former president Jacob Zuma, who has taken the sting out of the phrase “spilling the beans”, Agrizzi gave new meaning to the cliche with his testimony that made for gripping television.
Every witness to the commission who had cause to mention the name of the former president had done so.
Among others, former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda told Justice Zondo that Zuma had failed to give him sufficient reasons why he was removed from his post in one of the former Number One’s infamous Cabinet reshuffles.
Former Government Communication Information System head Themba Maseko also told the Commission that he was sacked on the instruction of Zuma, who was out of the country at the time.
The late former minister Collins Chabane delivered the news to Maseko, according to the latter.
Zuma’s name was never far from the lips of many who gave evidence before Justice Zondo, but when the name fell from Agrizzi's, it was in the most unflattering of terms.
He told the commission, for example, that his former boss, the late Gavin Watson, head honcho at Bosasa, that later became African Global Operations, boasted how Watson played puppeteer with the former president.
This claim was made by Watson in the company of Agrizzi and Linda Mti, the tainted former commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, under whose watch, Bosasa allegedly made more than R1 billion in tenders.
As if to outdo the proverbial canary, Agrizzi sang and revealed in great detail how not only Mti but a horde of Correctional Services officials were in the pockets of Bosasa.
Among the regular faces in the audience at the commission’s hearings in Parktown, north of Joburg, sat Cope official Dennis Bloem, who clearly had been itching throughout to be called up to give his testimony.
When he did eventually, Bloem told the commission that, as chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on correctional services, they had for years queried “the validity and need for four contracts awarded to Bosasa for catering, security, fencing and TV set distribution services at prisons across the country”.
The portfolio committee had met with no luck by way of a satisfactory response, Bloem said.
For the duration of his testimony, Agrizzi made the rot spawned by the Gupta family pale into insignificance, like they were a Sunday school picnic.
A master at taped conversations, Agrizzi would be ensnared into his own trap when a recording of him uttering the racist k-word was revealed.
He told the commission that he was referring to his erstwhile colleagues at Bosasa, former directors Johannes Gumede and Papa Leshabane.
He had said so much about his former employers that, initially, he was advised by evidence leader, advocate Paul Pretorius, that parts of his affidavit implicated him in unlawful activities.
Subsequently, he was arrested, along with the likes of former Bosasa colleagues Andries van Tonder and Frans Vorster, and former Correctional Services finance head Patrick Gillingham. He was released on R20000 bail.
But the anticlimax to Agrizzi’s high must surely be Zuma who, when he eventually took the stand, hid behind the gown of defence advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, who failed to mask his insolence towards Justice Zondo.
The beans Zuma spilt was to allege former minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, was an apartheid spy.
When it was the turn of the Gupta dirty linen to be hung out in public, the names of the family’s enablers, chief among them, former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, occupied centre stage.
Mzwanele Manyi, who took over from Maseko at GCIS, was another Gupta acolyte, who sang the Indian family’s praises for setting up The New Age, a newspaper that got Maseko into Zuma’s bad books for not giving it government business.
The name of the ruling ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule made it into the records of the Commission when the Gupta family’s influence in the Free State was the subject of discussion.
It will take a magician to remove the link between Magashule and the Vrede Dairy Farm, the Gupta cash cow in the Free State, where the ANC secretary-general was Premier.
Colourful characters like Robert McBride, Mo Shaik, Fikile Mbalula and Tom Moyane, among many others, made a turn in Parktown.
Zuma’s son, Duduzane, was the essence of cool when he showed up before Justice Zondo, refuting aspects of how he got former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas to tag alongside him to the Gupta compound in Saxonwold.
The Houdini of the plot, Fana Hlongwane, finally got to show his face before Zondo too, on Thursday.
Voices of reason like former British MP Lord Peter Hain and former director general in the Presidency, under Thabo Mbeki, Reverend Frank Chikane, offered words of caution and advice to the Commission.
But nothing lingers in the memory like the picture of former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni clutching a Louis Vuitton bag packed with crisp R300000 in bribes.
The commission wrapped up it’s hearings on Friday. It will resume on January 13, 2020.