JOHANNESBURG, January 29 – Former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi has admitted to being a racist after a recording in which he uses the k-word to describe his former colleagues Papa Leshabane and Johannes Gumede was played at the state capture commission of inquiry on Tuesday.
Evidence leader Paul Pretorius said the commission’s legal team described Agrizzi’s utterances in the clip as ”nakedly racist and grossly offensive”.
Agrizzi was on the witness stand on his last day of giving testimony. He asked the commission to play the whole three hour long video to understand ”where it all came from” adding that he was provoked.
He said he was ”half asleep” during the meeting with Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson’s brother Jarred, who brought along Gavin’s two children, Lindsay and Roth. Agrizzi told the commission he had earlier consumed alcohol after working through the night.
The recording was shared widely on social media platforms.
”I am racist…judge me on that…its fine,” Agrizzi said, before apologising, adding that he was ”embarrassed and ashamed”.
He said he knew he was being recorded and that those who did it possibly wanted to protect themselves. In the recording, Agrizzi is heard ranting and repeating the k-word: “…they are k*****s…they are screwing your father…k*****s…”
Pretorius said Agrizzi’s racist remarks had implications on everyone and the rest of the country.
”It will be put to you that your entire motivation for whistleblowing is racism. What is your view on that?”
Agrizzi replied: ”I admitted I was wrong, I paid the price for this…the two people I refer to using the k-word are [Bosasa executives] Papa Leshabane and Joe Gumede. I was wrong and there is no excuse….when people threaten you, you do these stupid things. It was directed at me and done in the privacy of my own home.”
Chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Zondo told Agrizzi that his reply did not make any difference to what he said in the recording.
”Are you saying you are entitled to be racist inside your house?” Zondo asked
”Chairperson…there is no excuse…I ask you to look at the facts, I did what I did here, I cant influence your decision… but what I can do is ask you to allow whisteblowers to come through,” Agrizzi said.
Zondo said Agrizzi’s evidence would be examined as required from a judge.
”What I heard you say there was extremely offensive and unacceptable, but that does not mean I won’t examine your evidence, consider it and deal with it in a way a judge should,” said Zondo.
Agrizzi replied: ”That is all I want chair.”
The recording, said Agrizzi, was an attempt to discredit him.
”I will do whatever I have to do to fix this. This, chairperson, is an attempt to discredit me and I believe this is why it has blown up…discredit me and you discredit the information.”
The recorded meeting took place in 2018 at Agrizzi’s house. He detailed how, in the previous months following his decision not to return to work, Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson sent colleagues, his family members and a lawyer to Agrizzi’s home to ”try to buy my silence”. Agrizzi said he was offered millions of rands for his silence on the corrupt activities at the facilities management and security company. The offer from Bosasa to Agrizzi was a R5 million to R10 million payment per annum for five years, providing he could ”keep quiet and not mention anything” that would make Bosasa look bad.
He testified that he had decided in March 2017 that it was time to blow the whistle and expose Bosasa. The former Bosasa COO said he sought advice from legal minds such as former prosecutor, now DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, and advocate Barry Roux, a prominent defence advocate. An individual in the media advised him to tell the truth openly, after which he then released a press statement in August 2017 announcing his intention ”to come clean” and spill the beans on Bosasa.
However, isolating himself from Bosasa brought a wrath of threats from everyone including Gumede and Leshabane, he said.
”Everyone was well aware that I was being followed and checked up on…they [Bosasa] had a private security firm to keep tabs on me. I even received calls from people inside Bosasa telling me they had just processed a payment of R450,000 to a suspect security company…those invoices were faxed to me, chairperson. This was like a hit taken out on me by Bosasa.” (ANA)