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article imageZuma ally took monthly bribes from S.Africa company, inquiry hears

By Michelle GUMEDE (AFP)     Jan 21, 2019 in World

A South African former executive on Monday told a corruption probe that his old company had paid monthly bribes for years to a minister who served under scandal-tainted ex-president Jacob Zuma.

Angelo Agrizzi, ex-chief operating officer of the Bosasa contracting company, has given days of bombshell testimony to a judicial commission probing allegations of government corruption under Zuma.

Agrizzi said he was responsible for counting and packing 50,000 rand ($3,600) in cash, which was to be delivered each month to Nomvula Mokonyane.

The practice continued from 2002 until 2016 when Agrizzi left the company, he said.

Mokonyane, who is currently environmental affairs minister, served as Zuma's minister of water and sanitation between 2014 and 2018, and was earlier a provincial minister.

"We knew she was close to former president Zuma," Agrizzi, dressed in a dark-grey pin-stripped suit, told the inquiry.

"She was going to speak to him (Zuma) and another person to have any charges against Bosasa dropped, if there were any."

"She was the link person for us. We knew that if we had any issues, we could go to her and they would be sorted."

Mokonyane, who is currently environmental affairs minister, served as Zuma's minister of water and sanitation between 2014 and 2018, and was earlier a provincial minister.

Bosasa, which was renamed African Global Operations in 2017, earned huge profits from contracts with government departments and state-owned companies.

It has been under investigation over alleged graft since 2007 but has never been charged with any crime.

- Lavish gifts -

Agrizzi described how Bosasa paid for funerals for Mokonyane's deceased family members, rented cars for her daughter for months at a time and organised large rallies for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

"I was personally involved. I would have to authorise," he said.

Zuma has denied any wrongdoing, and Mokonyane has also reportedly said she was innocent.

Cyril Ramaphosa, who came to power when Zuma was ousted as president last February, has vowed to root out corruption in the government and the party as the country heads for elections in May.

The ANC lost public support under Zuma, partly due to its reputation for corruption.

Ramaphosa appointed Mokonyane as communications minister and then environment minister.

Agrizzi said he had even designed Zuma's 72nd birthday cake as one of the favours the company did to gain lucrative contracts from the state.

Last week Agrizzi told the inquiry that the firm would spend between four and six million rand a month on bribes.

"We will not take responsibility for the actions of any individual, be it former leaders, be it the current leaders or members of the ANC in society," Zizi Kodawa, ANC spokesman, told AFP.

"It does not mean the organisation entirely is on trial."

Natasha Mazzone, of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, said a "circle of silence was being broken" around Zuma.

"We need to see people going to jail and being held properly accountable. There must be consequences for those who try to sell our country to the highest bidder," she said.

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