How Bosasa Conquered the Mighty

To ensure it landed lucrative state tenders, Bosasa devised elaborate plans to keep politicians in the pocket while raking in billions.

The influence and satisfaction of politics was connected on an “industrial scale,” the third part of the State Capture Commission of Inquiry report into the massive corruption scandal it showed. The report’s 1,000 pages detail how the now-defunct Bosasa managed to arrest a former president, some members of his executive branch and other government officials.

With the late Gavin Watson at the helm, Bosasa earned an estimated R2.3 billion from government tenders between 2000 and 2016.

Former COO Angelo Agrizzi, who turned whistleblower, testified before the Zondo commission that at least 75 million euros in bribes were paid over the 16-year period.

However, the report stated that the money generated by Bosasa’s operations was not sufficient to keep up with periodic cash bribes, gifts and home renovations. Bosasa had to find other means to ensure the constant supply of money.

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“The evidence revealed that the attempts to exert influence were conducted on what can be characterized as an industrial scale, requiring mechanisms to ensure the continued generation and supply of cash in amounts unattainable through normal trading activities. .

“Cash generation units, such as the canteen in Lindela [repatriation centre] were not the main source of income for Bosasa, hence the need for illegal mechanisms for large-scale cash generation and the need for substantial vaults in Bosasa’s offices where the money can be stored and processed.”

‘Level of Influence’

After courting a person, the Bosasa bosses would decide how much to pay based on the degree of influence that person could wield.

According to the report, the company tried to do this continuously. Homes were built and furnished, security installed, and cars, gifts, jewelry, and groceries were bought to gain favor.

Bosasa created fake invoices for non-existent labor brokers and even paid ghost employees. Another method for the illegal scheme was to use copies of funeral payments as sources for cash checks. Liquidated companies and wholesalers were also used and labeled as “suppliers”.

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All the money generated by the illegal schemes was stored in Watson’s walk-in safe in his office. There was at least R2 million in cash in the vault at any given time. Sometimes the amount of money stored in the vault exceeded R6 million.

As a show of strength and influence, Watson made it a point to bring imprisoned politicians and officials to the once sprawling Bosasa headquarters in Krugersdorp. They would be given a tour of the property and some would leave with bags of money from his safe.

Executives such as former President Jacob Zuma, ANC NEC member Nomvula Mokonyane, former Treasury Secretary Malusi Gigaba and many others were treated to personal tours of Watson.

“Agrizzi, along with other witnesses, testified that Bosasa and the Watson family established a fairly well-organized, well-placed network of powerful people whose loyalty was secured with financial and other material incentives and bribes.

“It was through this network that they were able to promote and protect Bosasa’s private interests through irregular practices to divert substantial sums from the state,” the commission’s analysis said.

Where corruption was not involved in winning a tender, it later creeps in to ensure “maintenance, renewal or renewal,” read the Zondo report.

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