Citizen reporter
5 minute read
26 Aug 2019
12:45 pm

Toyota Corolla in which Gavin Watson died was not his ‘normal car’

Citizen reporter

The wealthy businessman had apparently sent his more upmarket vehicle in for repairs.

Gavin Watson.

The controversial CEO of facilities management company Bosasa, Gavin Watson, died in a car accident on his way out of OR Tambo Airport early on Monday morning at 5.30am.

He was alone and was the only fatality.

According to reports, the 71-year-old (other reports suggest he was 73) may have lost control of his vehicle and driven into a highway overpass’ concrete pillar. Watson had earlier flown up from his home in Port Elizabeth and had spent the weekend in Gauteng.

The police are investigating a case of culpable homicide, with some theories on social media suggesting Watson’s car may have been tampered with. However, this is a long way from being proven despite the fact that he had numerous enemies.

Bosasa and Watson family spokesperson Papa Leshabane confirmed to eNCA that Watson had apparently lost control of the vehicle, and no other vehicle was involved.

He said they were not willing to speculate on the incident being anything other than an accident.

Watson’s “normal car” had apparently been sent in for repairs, and the Toyota Corolla was how he had been getting around over the weekend. News24 reports that his regular car was a BMW X5, which presumably has stronger safety features. It was reportedly left at Bosasa’s company headquarters in Krugersdorp.

Apparently he also didn’t know how to drive a car with a manual gearbox, such as the Corolla’s, as he normally only drove automatics.

Some family members had already confirmed Watson’s identity at the mortuary.

Leshabane asked for privacy for the family and his colleagues and said he wouldn’t be granting any further interviews for the moment.

The wreck of the car in which Gavin Watson died. Photograph: Twitter

The accident scene had already been cleaned up by 12.30pm on Monday. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Bosasa was renamed African Global Operations, and Watson’s former colleague Angelo Agrizzi offered damning testimony of bribes, corruption and state capture against him and the company.

The four Watson brothers – Dan, Valence, Ronnie and Gavin – were born on a farm in the Eastern Cape, could speak fluent Xhosa and were raised by a preacher who taught them to respect everybody, particularly black people, as their equals. They had always been considered struggle giants in the Eastern Cape. The family was also hailed for their promotion of rugby and for integrating with black players when it was illegal during apartheid.

Dan “Cheeky” Watson also declined playing for the whites-only Springboks.

They benefited from empowerment deals after 1994, with Bosasa famously winning government tenders to supply food and security to prisons, to feed and transport refugees at the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp, and offer security at courts and airports.

Agrizzi earlier this year took the commission through video footage showing how money was allegedly taken from the company secretary’s vault to Watson’s office.

He told the commission the company spent millions monthly on bribing various persons in positions of authority in certain entities who were “useful and supportive of the organisation”.

The company paid R500,000 to Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 election campaign. Bosasa had earlier also been a generous donor of millions of rands to the ANC.

Agrizzi said he was Waston’s “right-hand man” from 1999 to 2016 when he worked for Bosasa, previously Dyambu Holdings, and that his boss trusted him with sensitive information.

Agrizzi implicated companies such as GoldFields, Sasol, Airports Company of South Africa, the Post Office, as well as the department of correctional services, as having received bribes, saying Watson disbursed cash in plastic bags.

The former COO showed video footage of how bribe money was taken from the vault in the secretary’s office to Watson’s office, which would then be counted, allegedly by Watson, and packed in bags for delivery.

Though the footage did not show former Bosasa chief financial officer Andries van Tonder taking the money from the secretary’s office, Agrizzi alleged the man was indeed Van Tonder as he had asked him to take the video and the money to Watson’s office.

The footage further showed Van Tonder allegedly walking towards Watson’s office with a box full of money, dropping it there, allegedly for Watson to count and pack in the bags for bribes. The money was always in R100 and R200 notes, he claimed.

Despite being hailed as a hero whose family earned anti-apartheid credentials, to Van Tonder, Watson was “a boss from hell”, he added in his testimony.

What was once a warm working relationship between the two began to deteriorate when Van Tonder stopped attending regular “prayer meetings” at Bosasa offices, championed by Watson.

“Initially I attended the prayer meetings at Bosasa which began in 2000,” he said.

“I viewed the prayer meetings as a tool Mr Watson used to determine one’s loyalty to him. He called on everyone to pray louder and you needed to indicate where you stood.”

Their relationship soured, however, when he stopped attending.

The former auditor of Bosasa, Peet Venter, also told the commission of inquiry into state capture that Watson always wanted someone else to blame for his actions, would instruct people to act illegally, and would later discard them to get rid of the evidence, thereby ensuring no fingers got pointed at him.

During his marathon testimony, Agrizzi told the commission that he made regular “coincidental and business” visits to an airport to deliver grey security bags filled with money to certain officials.

Venter told the commission that he regarded these payments – among many other alleged illegal payments – “as illegal as [Watson] didn’t give too much detail to me”.

“There were no fingers pointing to Mr Watson because he used people,” Venter told the commission.

This is a breaking story. More to follow.

(Edited by Charles Cilliers)

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