JOHANNESBURG, February 1 – Former ANC MP Winnie Ngwenya tried to recruit former correctional services portfolio committee chairman Dennis Bloem to do the bidding for Bosasa in exchange for cash, the state capture commission of inquiry heard on Friday.
Bloem, a spokesperson for the Congress of the People (Cope), is also a former ANC MP. He was a member of Parliament’s correctional services committee from 1994 before he became its chairperson in 2004 until 2009. He testified that he and several committee members spoke out against Bosasa’s continued rampage at the correctional services department.
Bloem said Ngwenya, who was a member of the committee, once walked into his office, informing him that she was sent by ”people at Bosasa”.
”I told her I was not interested in meeting those people. She said to me ‘you are playing with your luck, you must see these people’ and again I said no. Then she said to me ”ke nyuku” [we are talking big money here] and I said I was not going to meet with them, and she left. They were sending Winnie to me to meet with me, I refused,” said Bloem.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked Bloem how he interpreted Ngwenya’s message.
Bloem replied: “My understanding, chairperson, was that these people [Bosasa] wanted proximity to me, because I was very vocal against these tenders…they sent her to soften me up. My opinion is that they told her money was not a problem, or something along those lines.”
Former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi testified before the commission on monthly stipends paid to MPs by the company. Smith and then fellow MPs Ngwenya and Vuselelo Magagula received R45 000, R30 000 and R20 000 respectively, according to Agrizzi, to fend off the negative publicity around Bosasa at the committee to make sure the company continued to get contracts from the department. In 2016, Smith requested that his bribe be increased to R100 000, and Bosasa agreed. The company, now known as African Global Operations, paid Smith’s daughters university fees abroad and installed a state of the art security system at his Roodepoort home.
Bloem testified that he received many phone calls threatening his life. He said he tried hiding the threats from his family, but had to inform his wife one afternoon when he received yet another threatening phone call while he was in his spouse’s company.
”The caller said they’re following me, and they were going to finish me…I said please come I am waiting for you, and he dropped the phone. My wife asked why I was shouting so I had to tell her and asked her not to tell anyone…I was never ever scared of anything, even now…they could intimidate me, but I didn’t want no one to intimidate my family. I kept it to myself initially because it was not first time I was getting such threats. Apartheid era security police did that too. I knew that if I curled up, they would get me.”
Furthermore, his office in Parliament was burgled twice and documents stolen. Bloem said he reported the incidents to Parliament’s secretary and the police, but no investigation took place. One of the document stolen was an anonymous letter he had received accusing him of being ”pro white monopoly capital”.
Bloem told Zondo that he was ”the last hope” for South Africans.
”I am doing this because I want to see anyone guilty of corruption in jail. Mandela and many other leaders were in prison for a very long time and some in exile for a long time, others paid with their lives for this freedom, chairperson. We cannot allow this [corruption] to happen while we are still alive…we must rid our country of corruption. I have full confidence in this commission, other people out there must come forward because this is not only happening at Correctional Services, but at many other departments too…I do not want my children to live in a corrupt country….chairperson, you are the hope for South Africa as it is now.” (ANA)