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Gwede takes aim at Raymond Zondo

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has gone to court to challenge the damning state capture findings against him.

He is taking legal action against Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who chaired the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, in his quest to prove that the commission had acted beyond its mandate when it recommended that he be investigated for corruption because Bosasa had installed security cameras at his three houses.

Mantashe wants the damning findings against him set aside. The ANC national chairperson argues that the recommendation for him to be investigated is beyond the scope of the commission, as its terms of reference were to probe corruption committed by those holding public office.

Mantashe filed his court papers at the Johannesburg High Court on July 29. In a sworn affidavit, he disputes the extensive findings of the inquiry.

Zondo said in the report, which was handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa and made public in March, that there was a prospect that the police investigation would uncover a prima facie case against Mantashe.

In his affidavit, Mantashe disputes the evidence given to the commission by former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi, saying that he had never met him and that his evidence was completely untrue.

Mantashe’s affidavit reads: 

The commission was appointed to investigate allegations of what has come to be known as state capture. It subpoenaed and invited a number of witnesses to testify during the proceedings.

“One of the witnesses who came to testify is Mr Angelo Agrizzi, a former employee of a company called Bosasa. Bosasa did a lot of business with government institutions and there were allegations that they were involved in corrupt practices.

“During one of the sessions in his testimony, Agrizzi made allegations that Bosasa had installed security cameras at my properties. Mr [Patrick] Mlambo and Mr [Richard] le Roux, who were employees of Bosasa, also testified at the commission that the upgrades had been undertaken. They visited my properties at Cala in the Eastern Cape and Boksburg in Gauteng.”

Mantashe says the commission heard that invoices were produced for the cameras, however, he disputes these allegations, claiming that he was never given such invoices, neither was he ever asked to pay for the security cameras.

“I volunteered without being asked by the commission to appear at the hearings. The suggestion by Agrizzi that the cameras were installed in return for some corrupt favours from my side is untrue and I reject it with the contempt it deserves.

“In fact, not a shred of evidence has been presented to the commission to suggest that I conducted myself in any way whatsoever corruptly. I have never met Mr Agrizzi in my life,” reads the affidavit.

He rejects the findings that the security cameras were arranged on his behalf by security guards who were assigned by the ANC.

“A family friend, Mr Papa Leshabane [a former Bosasa director], offered to install the cameras to my security personnel. There was nothing corrupt about the offer of security cameras…”

He says his admission that the cameras were installed at the three properties does not mean that corruption took place: “I dispute that there was anything untoward about the installations, which were arranged between my security adviser and Mr Leshabane. I deny that it was not done on any basis to solicit favours from him.

I dispute that the evidence pertaining to him falls within terms of references as I was the secretary-general of the ANC at the relevant time and did not hold any position or any employment of the state contemplated in the terms of references.

“I dispute that I was in any position to influence an office bearer in any such position.”

He further argues that the commission acted unfairly in its findings, although it had established that, at the time of the installations, he “clearly fell outside of the list of public officers”.

“I advise that it will be argued at the hearing of this matter that once the commission found that I fell outside the terms of reference, this should have been the end of the matter. The commission should not have had any further inquiries as this would have been beyond its mandate.”

Mantashe laments that the commission did not act within its “bounds and limits” in reaching its recommendations against him, but scrutinised his own personal conduct.

The flaw of this finding is that the commission rules that its function was to unearth corruption generally. This is wrong. The terms of references circumscribe the duties and functions and powers of the commission. “It was not mandated to investigate corruption generally, but did so within the limits and structures of the terms of references.

He adds that the notion that the commission’s function was to unearth corruption is misplaced but it had to operate within its mandate: “The others, to whom the commission refers, are not necessarily comparable to me. To my recollection, the others who benefited from the security installations were officials of government at the time when the security installations were made at their premises.

“To my recollection, none of those people had a family connection to Mr Leshabane, unlike myself. I have a family connection to Mr Leshabane and understood that the security installations were made out of familial loyalty and not for corrupt intention.”

He argues that none of the evidence presented by Agrizzi at the commission found that the security camera installations were used for him to influence any office bearer.

“What the commission failed to take into account is that I was not part of government at the relevant time and there is no evidence to suggest that I influenced anybody in government on account of the security cameras which were installed at my premises.”

He adds that the commission erred in its definition of the “general offence of corruption” in accordance with the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

“The commission concluded that, in the circumstances, there is a reasonable prospect that further investigation will uncover a prima facie case against me in respect of the offence of corruption … What the commission in essence accepts is that it has not found evidence of any prima facie case against me, but somebody else might.

The affidavit reads:

What the commission hopes for is that, by some stroke of luck, the state might be able to uncover some corruption.

Last month, the Commercial Crimes Court granted an application by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that Agrizzi and former ANC member of Parliament Vincent Smith be tried separately on charges relating to the Bosasa fraud and corruption allegations.

The trials of Agrizzi and Smith, who appeared together in October last year, will be separated because of Agrizzi’s continued ill health. They are charged with corruption, while Smith faces additional charges of fraud for alleged payments made to his company Euroblitz in 2015 and 2016.

The state alleges the payments were made to Smith to silence his opposition to Bosasa during Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts meetings.

Smith has pleaded not guilty to the charges and maintains that the money was a loan from Agrizzi, which the latter denies.

READ: Former ANC MP Vincent Smith to make representations to have charges against him withdrawn

NPA spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka confirmed that the tax fraud charges stemmed from Smith’s and Euroblitz’s failure to disclose the taxable income from March 9 2009 and July 11 2018, amounting to R28 million.

“Smith stands accused in his personal capacity as well as a representative for his company Euroblitz 48. He is charged with corruption for the gratifications he received from Bosasa in the form of security upgrades to his Gauteng home.

“He further faces corruption charges for accepting gratifications from the Waterfall Golf Estate and Clidet 69,” Seboka said.

Smith has also been charged for accepting cash that was transferred into his personal bank account from Bosasa and other people who have not yet been identified by the state.

Yesterday, Mantashe said he was waiting for the date of the hearing, which will be determined by court.

“The message I am sending is merely that I am challenging the recommendations through the right legal channels,” he said.

–City Press

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