Former ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize has admitted that the party accepted donations from Bosasa despite public allegations of corruption, including paying bribes for tenders shrouding the Krugersdorp-based firm.
Mkhize made the admission after being questioned about a 2014 photograph snapped at ANC headquarters, Luthuli House, that shows a Bosasa delegation including Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson and chairperson Joe Gumede with Mkhize.
Mkhize is seen handing over what appears to be a gift bag emblazoned with a picture of former presidents Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma with the words: "Thank you for your support to the ANC in 2014". According to Mkhize, the picture was taken following an "introductory meeting" between Bosasa executives and himself and he could not specifically recall the photograph.
He said in his experience when business people met with leaders of the ANC, they would request photographs to "commemorate the experience".
"In my term as treasurer general, I have, in my official capacity, met with hundreds of business people involved in small, medium and large enterprises," Mkhize said.
"As far as I can remember, Gavin Watson and members of his team had an introductory meeting with me at my office at Luthuli House in 2014. It was not 'commonplace' for members of Bosasa to visit my office. I recall only ever encountering Mr Watson in passing on a few occasions, mostly at public and party events," he continued.
"These were not in my personal capacity. I can confidently say that I do not have a personal relationship with Bosasa's directors and any inference of the sort will be treated with the contempt it deserves."
Corruption made public
By the time this meeting took place in 2014, it had been more than five years since media reports first exposed corruption involving Bosasa and billion-rand correctional services tenders.
At the time, News24 sister newspaper City Press had also revealed the contents of a 2009 Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report that found evidence of bribes paid to correctional services officials by Bosasa executives.
The bribes, paid to former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti and the department's chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham, included cars, homes, furniture, cash, rugby tickets and flights and accommodation.
Also pictured with Mkhize are Bosasa directors Papa Leshabane, Thandi Makoko and Joe Gumede - as well as politically-connected fixer Sesinyi Seopela, known in Bosasa circles as "Commander".
Seopela, it has emerged, was able to open doors for Bosasa, setting up meetings with senior ANC and government officials.
With the exception of Makoko, the Bosasa staff members pictured (resplendent in their blue Bosasa uniforms) have been implicated in criminal acts including the payment of bribes to journalists, Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) officials, correctional services officials and political leaders during testimony before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.
A source with intimate knowledge of Bosasa's affairs told News24 that the company had donated a conservatively estimated R40m to the ANC over nearly two decades.
This included cash donations, sponsorship of ANC events and Siyanqoba rallies - massive gatherings of ANC members in the run-up to the 2014 elections.
This did not include cash paid to politicians as gifts or bribes in return for their influence and continued good nature to Bosasa as testified to by former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, the source explained.
According to the same source, Bosasa donated R6m towards the ANC's 2014 national election campaign. The Mkhize meeting at Luthuli House took place after these elections.
News24 is also in possession of a proof of payment showing that Bosasa paid R1m to the ANC in the North West in July 2016.
Local government elections were held in August 2016.
Bosasa also sponsored two lavish birthday parties for Zuma, at an estimated cost of R3m.
Mkhize, in response to detailed questions from News24, said that he recollected Bosasa donated funds to the ANC "directly or in kind".
One such "in kind" donation was through the purchase of tables at a gala dinner, the total of which Mkhize said he could not immediately verify "within the time requested".
News24 sent questions to Mkhize, Bosasa and the ANC on Friday, February 15, 2019, but was informed that Mkhize needed more time to establish the facts of Bosasa's donations. Acting ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told News24 the ANC "may" respond after Mkhize responded.
When Mkhize responded on Monday afternoon, Kodwa was again approached for the ANC's comment, but said Mkhize had responded in his capacity as former treasurer general.
At the time of writing Bosasa, through its spokesperson, Leshabane, had not responded.
Proceeds of crime
"It must be stated from the onset that the ANC does not accept the proceeds of crime as donations. This is a position we have always made clear," Mkhize said.
"Consequently we have pointed out to potential funders that donating to the ANC does not offer protection or immunity against investigations of irregular transactions. It also does not 'buy' you any favours or undue influence [on] government and its entities," he added.
Mkhize's statements are at odds with the fact that a corruption probe launched by the Hawks in 2010, following the finalisation of the SIU report, stalled for nearly a decade under mysterious circumstances.
The Zondo commission has heard that the prosecutor assigned to the Bosasa case, Marijke de Kock, had drawn up draft charge sheets against Gillingham in 2013 but for reasons yet to be explained, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) only took a decision to prosecute Bosasa executives, Gillingham and Mti, in February 2019.
Despite the SIU report being handed over to the NPA and the Hawks in early 2010, Bosasa executives implicated and the company continued to operate with impunity, scoring several more lucrative state contracts.
Data from National Treasury shows that between 2004 and 2019, Bosasa netted an estimated R12bn from numerous state departments.
This figure is likely to increase as Treasury officials delve deeper into financial records.
As treasurer general, Mkhize held the ANC's purse strings and was ultimately responsible for fundraising.
"Our approach to fundraising is that it should be done with transparency, accountability and integrity," he said.
"It follows then that we expect that all transactions will be based on voluntary contribution and as a party, we insist that support for the ANC is a matter of principle and good faith to assist the ANC as the champion of our democracy."
Mkhize did not express any concern that following the revelations about how Bosasa allegedly conducted business and criminal acts undertaken by its directorate to secure contracts, the Bosasa donations could in fact be categorised as the proceeds of crime.
Mkhize concluded his response by saying he maintains that the law should take its course, describing the Zondo commission as a "watershed moment for our country".
"All allegations of corruption and malfeasance at this commission are deeply concerning and the ANC has expressed its full commitment to the work of this commission," Mkhize added.
On Monday, Bosasa announced that the company had been placed under voluntary liquidation following a decision by its bank, FNB, to shut down the company's accounts by the end of February 2019 due to the reputational risk associated with Bosasa.
According to the statement, Bosasa employs around 4 500 staff, whose jobs are likely to be affected by the decision.