Last updated on Dec 5th, 2020 at 07:26 am

“He’s kind, caring, and whatever he does, he gives 100 percent,” these are the words of Debbie Agrizzi, wife of Angelo Agrizzi for the last 32 years…

On Thursday evening, All4Women attended the Zoom launch of Angelo Agrizzi’s book, Inside the Belly of The Beast, and heard from the woman who has stood by his side through thick and thin.

While Angelo Agrizzi remains in critical condition in ICU, his wife, Debbie, agreed to talk about the man the public hasn’t met.

Thursday also marked the whistle-blower’s birthday. She said this was her gift to him. “It’s not my story, it’s his story and he deserves all the credit for it.”

While Debbie admits, “He’s done things,” she says he’s never denied his culpability.

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

“But there are things that people DON’T know about him.”

The Zondo Commission has opened a can of worms, but Debbie says that there’s even more to be revealed inside the pages of the book which was penned together with Angelo Agrizzi and a ghost-writer.

“There’s so much that needs to be told, and hasn’t been told yet. The truth has to get out,” says Debbie.

What made Angelo Agrizzi decide to become a whistle-blower?

Debbie Agrizzi
(Screenshot from Zoom book launch)

“The big turning point was when he got sick the first time,” says Debbie.

It was Christmas Day in 2016, and Angelo told his wife he wasn’t feeling well. They rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered a tumour just beneath Angelo’s heart.

“He coded on the operating table,” recalls Debbie. “He made it through the operation to remove the tumour, but was in ICU in high care on life support. Doctors gave him a 50/50 chance of survival.”

But it wasn’t a near-death experience that made Angelo decide to testify against his Bosasa boss, Gavin Watson, and reveal the shocking depth of state capture in the country. It was a bizarre discussion between Debbie and Angelo’s doctor that revealed Gavin Watson’s true nature.

Debbie was visiting her husband in hospital, when the doctor asked her about whether or not she really believed it was wise to claim on Angelo’s life insurance policy. Debbie knew nothing about the claim!

It turned out, after some investigation, that Watson had attempted to claim Angelo’s policy while he was fighting for his life in hospital.

“This was the guy that always praised him to his face, but didn’t care about him in reality,” says Debbie. “There’s no love lost between me and Gavin. He thought he could buy anything with money. Things and people.”

“I wasn’t ever convinced that Gavin was who he said he was. I had contact with him over the years during a few social business events like a Christmas function at work. But he was never someone that actually CARED how you felt. He would rather make you feel like you were the best, but it was all manipulation.”

This shocking attempt by Watson to claim Agrizzi’s insurance prompted him to reveal the truth to the world.

The choice to testify

“We knew it would be a life-altering decision,” recalls Debbie. “But there was never a moment that we were doing this for revenge. We have family, grandchildren. We NEED to make this country better. It was something we felt we had to do.”

When Watson realised that Angelo was going to out him, Debbie says that he targeted all of the people who were closest to Angelo in the Bosasa organisation.

“Around 20-25 families were targeted because they were close to Angelo,” recalls Debbie. “But he’s a kind, caring person. He felt almost responsible for what happened to them. Most people don’t know that we supported these families out of our pocket for nearly a year. This is a side of Angelo that many people don’t know.”

Is Gavin Watson dead?

Debbie was asked if she believed Gavin Watson was killed in a car crash in August 2019.

“Yes I do think he is dead,” says Debbie. “Do I think it was an accident? NO. I think he took himself out. That’s my opinion. Take it or leave it.”

“He was bombastic, loud, overbearing. He would walk right over you, but he was also a coward. I saw that in the dealings that we had with him for 20 years. He had too many people in his pocket, so I don’t believe someone killed him.”

Bosasa exec Gavin Watson killed in car crash near Joburg airport

Was Angelo Agrizzi poisoned in prison?

On 14 October, Angelo Agrizzi appeared in the Palm Ridge Specialised Crimes Court.

What began as a normal day for the family ended in a twisted string of events.

Debbie recalls Angelo leaving their home in the morning to attend the court appearance. He presumed he’d be home around lunch time and suggested they go out for a bite to eat.

However, in a shock move, the court denied Angelo bail.

“I watched the court proceedings on TV only to see that my husband was denied bail,” recalls Debbie. “I was devastated.”

For the next few days Debbie and her husband’s lawyers were given the run-around. They didn’t have any information about where Angelo had been taken, and no one was allowed any communication with him.

“We just knew he’d been taken away,” says Debbie.

Vague communication

Eventually authorities contacted Former Bosasa CFO Andries van Tonder, asking for extra oxygen and Angelo’s sleep machines.

“That’s how we found out he’d been taken to Medium A in Johannesburg. We couldn’t see him or talk to him. He didn’t even get one phone call. I didn’t hear anything for four or five days.”

Eventually, Debbie received a phone call from Danny Witz.

“Danny got a call from Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital saying that Angelo had been there for the last three days. They said the hospital couldn’t cope with his needs, and had no beds or facilities. They asked me to make arrangements to get him to a private hospital,” recalls Debbie.

What happened?

According to information Debbie managed to glean from various sources, Angelo had entered the prison facility on the evening of 14 October. On the morning of 15 October he was found unconscious in his cell and rushed to hospital.

“Someone tried to get rid of him. Without a doubt,” says Debbie. “I’ve spoken to a few doctors that said there are things that someone could have given to him that would never come up on a blood test. There are a lot of questions. I want answers, and I won’t drop this until we get those answers.”

According to reports, Agrizzi entered the courtroom with his own portable oxygen tank. Somewhere along the line he was given another one. His insulin was also given to prison officials to administer.

“Why was he placed somewhere in the prison with no cameras?” questions Debbie. “Bosasa had (and still has) connections within the prison system. Just connect the dots. It’s not hard.”

Debbie, however, is not afraid.  “I’m not scared. Why must I allow people to run him or me off? We’re in this for the long haul. Come what may, but the truth must be told.”

“It’s a miracle he’s still here”

Nurses and doctors fought to revive Angelo after he went into cardiac arrest.

“They worked on him for 15 minutes solid to bring him back at the hospital. The doctor wanted to call it and the nurse said ‘not on my watch.’ She worked and worked and worked. The whole team worked to bring him back and the nurse’s hands were blue and bruised the next day.”

“They fought for hours to stabilise him and he was put on life support. Our doctor didn’t know if he would survive. His kidneys had failed, he couldn’t breathe on his own. Every organ in his body was shutting down.  I still was not allowed to see him. It was very difficult.  It’s a miracle that he’s still here.”

Debbie and Angelo have relied on their faith to pull them through the toughest times.

“I’ve had a strong faith from very young and I trust God in all of this,” says Debbie. “I know He will get us through this. He is stronger and more mighty than anything that might happen going forward.”

Former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi appears at Palm Ridge Magistrates court for fraud and corruption charges of corruption for instructing staff to pay for a R200,000 electric fence around Smith’s home in 2014.Pictured on 14 October 2020. Picture; Nigel Sibanda

Debbie and Angelo stay strong together

“Whatever we do, we do as a couple. We draw strength from each other. We’ve been together for 32 years,” says Debbie.

They met on a blind date set up by one of Angelo’s staff members. “We hit it off straight away and had a connection. We had our ups and downs but that’s life. And you grow as a couple as the years go on. You really do become one after a while.”

Angelo’s book describes how much he regrets all the time he lost with his family while he was working extensive hours for Bosasa.

“He worked 17-18 hours a day,” says Debbie. “He would leave around 4:30 in the morning and I’d see him about 10 or 11pm. That’s one of the regrets he does have.”

However, she understands his motivation. “His father was a migrant. They didn’t have much. They lived in a small town in Italy. He always wanted to give our family a ‘better’ life. Like any father does. But he does regret losing time with his family.”

No regrets

The couple, however, have no regrets in choosing to become whistle-blowers against corruption and state capture.

“We would do it again tomorrow. It’s been trying and difficult. There are days where you ask where to now, but I wouldn’t change it. It’s something that HAS to happen.”

Speaking about how Angelo is feeling after his prison and hospital experience, Debbie says the incident has only served to ignite Angelo’s mission to reveal the truth. “He has a fire in his belly. Especially NOW. Nothing is going to keep him quiet now.”

The final chapter in the book, is called “Master no more”. Angelo Agrizzi is determined to set the record straight.

Publisher, Melinda Ferguson noted, “Nothing Angelo has said at the Zondo Commission has been proven incorrect. And no one has questioned the contents of the book so far.”

Where to now for the Agrizzi family?

“We carry on along the path we’ve set out,” says Debbie. “To allow the TRUTH to come forward. Where the path takes us, it takes us. But that’s what we’ve chosen and we’ve got to stay the course.”

***

ABOUT THE BOOK – Inside the Belly of The Beast

In this multibillion-rand corruption memoir, former Bosasa Chief Operating Officer and whistle-blower, Angelo Agrizzi rips open the can of worms, exposing two decades of untold greed, politicking, corruption, racism, bribery and deep state capture.

Inside the Belly of The Beast is a mind blowing confession of a man who, page by page, exposes the intimate fraudulent workings of a company, founded on deep deception, under the  cult-like leadership of the Master himself, Gavin Watson. In January 2019, Agrizzi made his first appearance to testify at the ongoing Zondo Commission.

Having been intimately involved with Bosasa since its inception, having worked and travelled side by side with Watson, and having witnessed his unique style of bribery and corruption during this period – something that most certainly assisted in bringing South Africa to her knees during Zuma’s rule – Agrizzi is one of few people with a first-hand account of what really happened behind the closed doors of Bosasa.

Available at bookstores around the country.