‘R100,000 a month paid to Wakeford’
Ex-PE businessman allegedly helped Watson with Sars issues
A whopping R100,000 a month. That is how much former Port Elizabeth business leader Kevin Wakeford was allegedly paid for helping Gavin Watson’s company, Bosasa, “resolve its Sars issues”.
In an explosive affidavit, former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi – currently testifying at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture – laid out Wakeford’s alleged role in what he claimed was widespread corruption used to advance Bosasa’s business interests.
According to Agrizzi, politicians and businesspeople were bribed to pave the way for lucrative contracts.
Wakeford, the CEO of stateowned arms procurement agency Armscor, has been granted special leave since it became know he was listed as a “Bosasa beneficiary”.
The Port Elizabeth-born and bred Wakeford is named in Agrizzi’s affidavit as “a longstanding friend of Watson”.
“At one stage, Bosasa was encountering constant audits by the South African Revenue Services [Sars],” Agrizzi says in the affidavit, without stipulating the years he is referring to.
He said Wakeford would often be consulted on issues Bosasa was facing.
“Kevin Wakeford would be paid a monthly fee for services provided,” he alleged.
“On various occasions, Kevin Wakeford would offer advice with regard to how Bosasa should respond to media attacks.
Agrizzi said when Bosasa was undergoing a major Sars investigation, Wakeford approached Watson with a solution.
“Kevin Wakeford told us that George Papadakis could resolve all the issues at Sars,” he said. “Bosasa [allegedly] entered into an agreement with Kevin Wakeford to pay him the amount of R100,000 a month as a fee for providing services in relation to the Sars investigation.”
Agrizzi said Wakeford had then allegedly made an arrangement with Watson to provide both wet and dry cement to a property in Meyersdal owned by Papadakis.
“Some of the relevant delivery records are available,” he said.
It was not made clear what Papadakis did with the cement.
Agrizzi also accused Wakeford of involvement in underhanded dealings when it came to renegotiating the tender to manage the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp West.
He said this happened at a time when the Lindela contract was under review by the department of home affairs.
He explained that then home affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula had instructed the department to reduce costs at Lindela.
Watson was concerned that it would affect profits and called a meeting, one that included Wakeford.
At that meeting, “it was decided that Aneel Rahadkhrishna [who was conducting the review] could be ‘managed’,” Agrizzi said.
“Gavin Watson, Kevin Wakeford and Aneel Rahadkhrishna [allegedly] agreed on a deal.
“I was informed later by Rahadkhrishna that payment of an amount of R7m to him was discussed.
“The [alleged] payment to Rahadkhrishna was intended to facilitate a renegotiation and extension of the contract that would benefit Bosasa.”
Agrizzi said this resulted in the contract being extended for five years without the need for further tender processes and Treasury approval.
The price was reduced by R860,000 a month but “more favourable contract terms were included in the contract”.
Initially, Agrizzi said, he could not understand why Rahadkhrishna was being paid in light of the reduction in the contract price.
It was Wakeford, he said, who explained the benefits.
“An important benefit was that opposition to the contract on the part of opposition political parties and Scopa had been mitigated,” he said.
On Tuesday, Wakeford’s employer, Armscor, released a statement confirming that he had been afforded special leave in light of Agrizzi’s allegations.
For years, Wakeford’s name made media headlines for the leadership roles he played, first in the Eastern Cape and later nationally. In the 1990s – during his tenure as the CEO of the Port Elizabeth Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry – he was known as “Mr Coega” for his unrelenting enthusiasm for the project.
Following his stint at the chamber, the University of Port Elizabeth graduate took on the CEO role at the South African Chamber of Business (Sacob).
Wakeford’s profile on the SA business landscape was significantly raised in 2002 through the Myburgh Commission – the controversial hearing into allegations, propelled mainly by Wakeford, that public companies had been driving down the value of the rand to suit their own interests.
The R25m commission never found anything conclusive (though the rand strengthened afterwards).
The acrimony forced Wakeford to resign from Sacob.
After a year or two working in the audit committees of mines’ pension funds and writing columns for newspapers, he was roped in to serve as economic adviser to former Eastern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela. In 2005, he was hired as caretaker CEO of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, which was swamped by allegations of corruption.
Wakeford resigned after just five months, but was persuaded by Balindlela to stay on for several more months.
Also in 2005, he was appointed to the board of Johannesburg mining company Simmer & Jack – in a non-executive capacity – at the urging of empowerment entity Vulisango, then in a governance dispute with its mainly white management partners.
Vulisango was headed up by, and partly owned by, Watson’s brother Valence.
On Thursday, Wakeford declined to comment, saying only: “Judge Zondo made a ruling on Tuesday that we cannot comment on our responses until they have been delivered at the commission.”
Rahadkhrishna said: “I have no comment until I see and understand the full details.”
Despite extensive efforts, Papadakis could not be reached.