Ex-Bosasa Manager Exposes Extent of South African Graft Scourge

(Bloomberg) -- A former Bosasa executive testified how the South African services company paid millions of rand in bribes to secure and retain security, catering and other contracts from the government and private businesses.

Angelo Agrizzi, who quit as Bosasa’s chief operating officer in 2016, told a judicial commission that leading politicians were among 38 high-profile individuals who received payoffs during his almost 19 years at the company. The company distributed a total of 4 million rand ($292,000) to 6 million rand a month, he said.

The panel, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, was established to probe the theft of taxpayer funds during former President Jacob Zuma’s tenure. It has previously focused on allegations that members of the wealthy Gupta family exploited their close relationship with Zuma and other officials to loot state companies, but Agrizzi’s testimony indicates that the problem was far more widespread. Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.

Officials at the South African Post Office and the Airports Company of South Africa were among those who received payoffs from Bosasa, according to Agrizzi. Bribes and gifts were also given to labor union officials who helped it secure contracts from Gold Fields Ltd. and Sasol Ltd., he said.

“Every single contract was tainted with bribes and corruption,” Agrizzi told the commission in Johannesburg on Thursday. “Once you pay people on a monthly basis, you control them.”

The panel viewed video footage showing Bosasa Chief Executive Officer Gavin Watson and three other executives handling a large amount of cash, which Agrizzi said was referred to as “monopoly money” and was used to make the payoffs with Watson’s authorization.

Bosasa, now called African Global Operations, made headlines late last year when it emerged that it had donated 500,000 rand to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign to win control of South Africa’s ruling party. Ramaphosa, who initially denied any knowledge of the donation, then said he had inadvertently given incorrect information to parliament about it and undertook to repay the money. The company denied wrongdoing. Its spokesman Papa Leshebane, who didn’t phone calls to his office seeking comment.

Key highlights of Agrizzi’s testimony

  • Individuals were paid anything from 5,000 rand to more than 1 million rand a month to further and protect Bosasa’s business interests.
  • Those who received bribes include Maanda Manyatshe, a former chief executive officer of the South African Post Office who campaigned for Ramaphosa to win control of the ruling African National Congress, and Patrick Gillingham, chief financial officer at the department of correctional services.
  • Agrizzi said he was complicit in bribery and was aware that he was implicating himself with his testimony, but had decided to come clean.
  • Agrizzi said he has received death threats and the commission is providing him with protection.

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