Angelo Agrizzi, former COO of Bosasa, has completed his marathon testimony at the state capture commission.
His representations have begun to flesh out more clearly the anatomy of corruption in SA.
That the state suffers from endemic corruption is public knowledge but much of what is known is conjecture.
Agrizzi’s testimony thrusts the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority into the spotlight. And the question is whether these will pursue the allegations and bring criminal charges against those in government who have been implicated at the commission.
In Michela Wrong’s hard-hitting tale It’s Our Turn to Eat, about Kenyan whistleblower John Githongo, who blew the lid on corruption at the highest level of the Kibaki administration, she gives the following account:
“For those in government, the discovery that John had taped his conversations felt like a heart-stopping kick to the stomach. Remembering overly frank exchanges, they felt the nausea of real fear…
“For ordinary Kenyans, the revelation came as a hilarious moment of liberation. Accustomed to the brain-numbing exchange of accusation and counter-accusation that followed every corruption scandal, they could hardly believe someone had thought to collect the proof.”
Until Agrizzi’s testimony, ordinary South Africans have had to endure the theatrics of politicians using corruption as a slur against opponents. Details of alleged corruption have been scant and proof limited. Believing that they have covered their tracks it has been easy for officials all the way up to the president to issue denials.
Agrizzi’s detailed account of the bribery that oiled the network of patronage that characterised the Zuma years in the state rings like the stuff of a thriller novel, except that it is not fiction.
What makes Agrizzi’s testimony at the Zondo Commission invaluable is that he is able to back up his allegations with evidence.
Like Githongo, Agrizzi thought it prudent to make recordings of the numerous instances of underhanded exchanges that made public officials beholden to a private entity, Bosasa.
Agrizzi’s motive may have had little to do with a commitment to fight corruption, as in Githongo’s case. Even so, his testimony responds to the observation made by Githongo in Wrong’s account: “The fight against corruption had always been handicapped by a lack of evidence…”
If ever there was any doubt as to the value of the whistleblower, Agrizzi has vindicated the need for people courageous enough to take the risk of speaking out against wrongdoing.
Moreover, his appearance has also vindicated the necessity for such a commission in the first place.
The wide-ranging terms of reference, which go beyond that originally prescribed by the public protector – that the commission should focus on former president Jacob Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas, provides a pretext for many other Agrizzis to come forward.
Providing a platform for whistleblowers is only the beginning and is the easier task. The real test awaits the country’s law enforcement agencies. That which has been revealed at the commission warrants not only further investigation but the institution of charges and the prosecution of those implicated.
Given the ubiquity of maladministration, fruitless and wasteful expenditure as well as other irregularities across all levels of government, it is highly likely that Bosasa is one among hundreds.
That means there are hundreds more potential Agrizzis out there. How the commission and law enforcement deal with Agrizzi is therefore critical in inspiring not only public confidence but in emboldening more people to come forward.
And if corruption is deeply entrenched in the government as it appears to be following the representations made at the Zondo Commission so far, then it may be apt to established a specialised tribunal to expedite the prosecutions.
This article first appeared in the Sowetan. Please click here to read the article on their website.