‘Bosasa hosted ANC call centre’

Company threw big election victory bash, says former manager

Former Bosasa chief financial officer Andries van Tonder
Former Bosasa chief financial officer Andries van Tonder
Image: Alon Skuy

The ANC has once again been dragged through the mud at the state capture inquiry after it emerged on Wednesday that controversial prisons facilities company Bosasa allegedly hosted the party’s call centre at its offices ahead of the national elections in 2014.

Bosasa also threw a massive celebration at its premises for the ANC after its victory at the polls was announced.

The deal to host the call centre and celebration at Bosasa’s expense was allegedly struck by environmental affairs minister and alleged Bosasa beneficiary Nomvula Mokonyane.

The startling revelations were made by former Bosasa central divisions manager Frans Vorster at the Zondo state capture inquiry.

“In 2014, we were instructed to prepare a call centre for the ANC for them to run their national call centre from our facility.

“The IT department had to set up their computers, had to open phone lines for them to use,” Vorster said.

“Exactly what they did from the call centre, I’m not sure.

“There were about 20 to 25 people who manned the call centre.”

He said his division had to carry the costs for the centre.

Bosasa also footed the bill for a massive function to celebrate the ANC’s election victory.

“At the same time, a massive marquee tent was set up in front of one of our national stores,” Vorster said.

“The renting of the cutlery, the food, everything was paid for by Bosasa.

“After the ANC won, they had a massive function on the premises.

“The person from the ANC who drove the process was Mokonyane. It was a function for about 400-plus people.”

He said the bill for the celebration was paid through Kgwerano Financial Services, which is a subsidiary of Bosasa.

It was not the first time Mokonyane’s name came up in Vorster’s testimony.

He alleged he was instructed by Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson to rent a car for Mokonyane’s daughter between December 2015 and January 2016.

He told the inquiry that the car was rented in his name and the total bill for the rental, and the insurance excess that emanated from Mokonyane’s daughter bumping the car, came close to R100,000.

Earlier on Wednesday, the inquiry also heard testimony from former Bosasa chief financial officer Andries van Tonder, who detailed how the company cooked its books to derail investigations by SARS and launder cash for bribes.

Van Tonder described Bosasa’s failed venture into the aquaculture business via a project called SeaArk Africa which aimed to breed seawater prawns.

“Large sums of monies were transferred to SeaArk, up to about R50m over three years was earmarked to pay consulting fees on the project.

“We could not continue with the commercial build of the project due to the lack of funding.”

To mitigate the losses from the project, SeaArk’s name was changed to Bosasa Supply Chain Management.

“Bosasa Supply Chain Management could be used for income tax management.

“Basically food items were on-sold from Bosasa Supply Chain Management to Bosasa Operations at a profit margin of about 20%.

“That profit was offset against the losses it previously incurred,” Van Tonder said.

He said the value of the benefit was about R37m.

But SARS conducted an investigation into the company’s utilisation of the assessed losses and the equipment write-offs.

“We had to show that the SeaArk project continued and we did it by building a prawn production facility in Krugersdorp.

“And an entity for this purpose was called Bio Organics. It was funded by Bosasa.

“Artificial seawater was manufactured to grow the prawns in for this project.

“[Bosasa] CEO Gavin Watson even invited [former president Jacob] Zuma to view the facility. It was a very successful operation, we bred beautiful prawns,” he said.