Opinion

Calls for Sanef to Open Books Could be Futile – Bosasa Paid Cash: Agrizzi

By Pinky Khoabane

SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL EDITORS FORUM (Sanef) must open its books to the public in the name of transparency following a leaked email reportedly from former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi, instructing his former colleagues in the accounts department to pay R100,000 into a fund for SABC journalists who were fired and later reinstated.

But more importantly it must name the donors it says paid the fund over R100,000. This should be done in the name of transparency, upholding journalist ethics which, among others, require guarding against a conflict of interest. Who are these generous funders? What favours, if any, have they received? Could their donation influence publication of their events? These are ethical questions, and brings me to the question of whether journalists should be raising funds?

Agrizzi is currently testifying at the State Capture Commission and has fingered many top government and ANC officials including labour movements in allegations of massive corruption and one of his revelations is that BOSASA paid with cash to hide any trace of payment to its beneficiaries. This raises another question of whether Sanef opening its books to the public will answer the question of whether Bosasa paid or not. So rife was the bribery Agrizzi says, even the pope would have been corrupted.

The email, written on Friday 22 July 2016 says: “Strategically Andries V T (Andries van Tonder who was Bosasa’s former chief financial officer) has come up with a brilliant idea to sponsor the journalist fund that was started to assist the SABC journalists who were fired – BOSASA will contribute an amount of R100,000.000….)…..”I know we are under pressure – trust me this is probably going to be the best ROI (return on investment) we’ve ever had with donations”.

A few minutes later, in another email Agrizzi sends another email to the accounts department under the subject: “Friends of SABC journalists by Adriaan Basson” and includes the link to the fundraising site.

TimesLive broke the story yesterday. It said its sources said Agrizzi had put pressure on the accounts division to pay the money and the money was paid. https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2019-01-22-leaked-e-mail-did-bosasa-donate-r100k-to-journo-fund/

The article quoted one of the SABC 8 Journalists, Foeta Kriege, who said he was not aware the money could have been donated from Bosasa. “I was not aware of that and the only person you should ask is Adriaan Basson on this. Basson created the crowdfunding. I honestly got no idea where the money was from.”

“When approached for comment, News24 editor Adriaan Basson referred TimesLIVE to Sanef,” the report said.

Sanef late yesterday issued a statement and through its treasurer, Basson, said it had received only two payments over R100,000 and they didnt come from Bosasa or anyone related to the organisation.

As I’ve said earlier, these generous donors who paid these amounts must be revealed. Were they vetted by the time the statement was issued to ensure they had nothing to do with Bosasa?

TimesLive did what is rarely done in this country, where one media organisation scrutinises the conduct of journalists. The media cabal has unsurprisingly ganged-up against TimesLive. How dare they write a negative story about their own?

A report on EWN on the alleged Bosasa bribe matter was interesting. It reads:

“TimesLive reports that a senior Bosasa official instructed his colleagues to donate R100,000 to the crowdfunding effort to help the group of journalists in 2016.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) suspended the journalists at the time without pay for speaking out against censorship of protest footage.

Sanef says only one donation of R100,000 was made and that it was not from Bosasa or any person connected to the company.

Sanef Treasurer Adriaan Basson says, “There two big donations made which were not from Bosasa or anyone linked to Bosasa. We’ve also asked TimesLive to provide us with proof of such a transaction.'”

In the above article, Agrizzi is no longer being named but described as “a senior Bosasa official”. The report also contradicts itself – is it one big donor or two?

A News24 Report reads in part:

“We have had the opportunity to go through every of the 394 donations made in July 2016 to the cause and could not find any donation from Bosasa and/or a person connected to Bosasa or a donation for R100 000,” Sanef’s leadership said in a statement on Wednesday.

What exactly does this mean? The only donations scrutinised are those made in June 2016, what if the money was deposited later? If Agrizzi is to be believed, he and Bosasa mastered the art of hiding the money trail.

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