Former Bosasa boss Gavin Watson’s dramatic and sudden death earlier this year sparked a frenzy among South Africans, who immediately raised questions about how he died, if he really died, whether he was killed and if so, by whom.
Embroiled in the saga was the feud between the Watson family and former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi, leading to a blame game. Added to this was the auctioning of Bosasa assets not long after Watson’s death and the liquidation of its companies while a tax enquiry probed its most senior members.
Certainly, it has been a tragic and controversial year for the Bosasa kingpins and News24 has put together a recap of the top moments.
On Sunday, August 25, Watson called a prayer meeting with directors of Bosasa at the company’s offices in Johannesburg. The following day, he took the company car, a white Toyota Corolla, and made his way to OR Tambo International Airport with only R70, his ID and his driver’s licence.
But he never made it to the airport, crashing the car into a concrete pillar just outside the airport. He was declared dead on the scene. It is still unclear where Watson was going or who he planned to meet at the airport.
An eyewitness told News24 that they saw his car parked on the side of the highway with its hazards on. They said Watson then made his way back onto the road, sped up and then crashed.
Few things are known about what happened but News24 dug up some interesting facts from the investigation. With no evidence to suggest that Watson applied the brakes or tried to avoid the concrete pillar, a preliminary report by a private investigator hired to look into the crash found that there was no acceleration five seconds before impact, suggesting Watson was dead before the crash.
A News24 walkthrough of the scene confirmed that there were no marks on the road, where debris could still be seen. If Watson had died before the crash, the expert said, he would not have bled excessively. The missing factor in all this is the final autopsy report which has still not been released. So mystery still surrounds Watson’s death.
At the time, News24 shared a video of the impounded car just 24 hours after the crash. It had already been stripped and was a mangled wreck – still fresh with bloodstains. Although the car was out in the open with little security, police said at the time they had all the evidence they needed.
Watson had been online on WhatsApp just an hour or so before. But the actual cellphone was never recovered after the crash. His nephew, Jared Watson, said it had been traced to Germiston and Bryanston on that day. The mystery of the cellphone is still unanswered.
It is also still unclear where Watson was going with no luggage or what he planned to do once he got to the airport. No CCTV footage of the crash or the moments leading up to it has surfaced. Neither the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) nor Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) has given any clarity on why there were no cameras on the stretch of road where he died.
OR Tambo International Airport is a national key point and it would have been expected that the approach to it would have been covered by cameras. Footage at the crash site and on the few hundred metres before the accident scene would be able to show if Watson was followed or run off the road as some have speculated.
A memorial to remember
About a week after Watson died, his family held a memorial service in which each member, as well as politicians, took a swipe at the media for their coverage of Bosasa. Watson’s brother, Valance Watson, said the media had treated his brother unfairly.
“Journalists tell you that I am a liar, but history is written by journalists who have hung heroes,” he said, changing the famous quote of the movie Braveheart to include the word “journalists”.
He said the media created a negative environment in South Africa and added that he was angry about the manner in which journalists had covered news surrounding Bosasa, saying they had created a racist narrative that tore people apart.
Former Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who was implicated by Agrizzi in testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry, said the media had “broken ubuntu” in South Africa. She said she would reveal “what Agrizzi has done” and added that those associated with Bosasa and Watson were persecuted because they believed in a just and fair society.
“They never loved you because of your conviction,” she said, adding that Watson had gone on to become a symbol of faith and pain.
Watson was due at a tax inquiry into Bosasa’s affairs the day after the crash. The inquiry was sparked by testimony at the commission and more than 20 witnesses were expected to appear. As a result of the inquiry, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) said it had determined that Bosasa owed it more than R500m in taxes, including penalties and interest on various amounts.
The company was placed under liquidation in February this year when FNB and Absa announced that they intended to close the company’s bank account. SARS also appointed liquidators Cloete Murray, Ralph Lutchman and Tania Oosthuizen and a liquidation process went ahead. This was despite Jared Watson’s attempts to halt the process in court, succeeding once but failing upon appeal.
Bidding began in December when about 600 bidders went for Bosasa assets, including Watson’s BMW X5, which was sold for R570,000. His previous car – a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S – fetched R500,000.