PARLIAMENT, August 4 – African National Congress (ANC) MP Vincent Smith on Wednesday admitted that he had received more than R600,000 from security company Bosasa, saying it was a personal loan entered into to fund his daughter’s studies.
Smith’s admission follows weekend reports that he received cash and other benefits from Angelo Agrizzi, the former chief operations officer of Bosasa, and comes less than a week after he was elected as the new chairman of Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services last week.
In a media statement, Smith said he had consulted with the ANC caucus in Parliament, adding: “We are all in agreement that I am obliged to respond.
“I confirm having entered into an agreement for a personal loan with Mr A. Agrizzi which is repayable by me. This loan was processed to me in two separate payments; an amount of R220,000 in 2015; and R395,000 in 2016. The loan was for the university tuition fees of my daughter in year one (2015) and year 2 (2016).”
He said he received no further help from Agrizzi and denied reports that Bosasa installed electric fences and a CCTV system worth some R200,000 at his home.
“I deny any further assistance, financial or otherwise, including the installation of CCTV cameras at my home from him or any other person or company. The cameras that are at my home were paid for by myself.”
Smith further said his directorship of a company called Euro Blitz 48, through which the loan from Agrizzi was processed, was declared in Parliament’s register of members interests.
He pledged his full cooperation to an inquiry by Parliament’s Ethics Committee into the payments, adding that he had no doubt that the process would “absolve me completely”.
The inquiry comes at a delicate time for Smith and the ruling party as he also chairs the parliamentary committee considering submissions on the ANC’s plan to amend section 25 of the Constitution to make express provision for land expropriation without compensation.
He said he had asked ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu to excuse him from all chairmanship duties until the inquiry by the Ethics Committee had been finalised.
The chief whip of the opposition Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen, said he thought it was disingenuous for Smith to contend that since he had declared his directorship of the company, he did not have to declare the benefit he had received publicly.
He said if it were destined to pay for his daughter’s studies, it would fall under the definition of a sponsorship and the rules were explicit that these needed to be listed.
“It is very clear that there is a case to answer,” said Steenhuisen, who on Wednesday lodged a request for the Ethics Committee to investigate the case.
“I think there is a lot of smoke and a lot of fire,” he added.
Steenhuisen pointed out that Smith chaired the portfolio committee on correctional services at the time he received the loan and the committee was investigating Bosasa for alleged involvement in corruption relating to state tenders.
The issue remained pertinent given the fact that Smith had now been elected to again chair a committee overseeing correctional services, Steenhuisen said.
“I would suggest it is an appropriate committee for him to chair.”
– African News Agency (ANA)