Speaking at the funeral of Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, former president Jacob Zuma described the Watson family as having been a great and important asset to the ANC.
He lauded Gavin Watson and his brothers as “comrades” for their commitment to nonracialism and to ushering in democracy in South Africa.
He said the Watsons had played an important role to provide intelligence to the then banned liberation movement, and he had worked with them while he was playing a leading role in the ANC’s intelligence structures during the struggle.
He said information from the Watsons proved reliable and very accurate and spoke of how Ronnie Watson had survived an assassination attempt in Gaborone when a man entered his hotel room carrying a gun.
Ronnie Watson disarmed him and beat him up.
“Gavin Watson helped develop this country. He invited me, while I was still president, to see what he was doing. He was a comrade, a brother, a friend. He is the only one who has come to my village, my little home called Nkandla.”
Zuma touched on the fact that there were several holes in the understanding of how Gavin had died, and he hoped a reliable report on the car crash would ultimately be made available. He expressed concern at “the manner in which many comrades are dying these days” and intimated that South Africa remained “strategically important” on the global stage, suggesting he is open to the family’s view that Gavin may have been killed in a hit.
“I hope investigations will prove us wrong. I hope comrade Gavin will not be counted amongst those cleverly removed from the scene.”
The former president described the work of the state capture commission under Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo as contributing to the destruction of the Watson name, with allegations having been made that Bosasa paid regular bribes to ANC officials to win and retain lucrative state tenders.
The family has dismissed the allegations, primarily from former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi, as lies.
Zuma said the Watsons had always been hated by “the enemy”, presumably a reference to those promoting the status quo that existed under apartheid.
“They are hated and always looked at as people that have to be removed, particularly because the Watson family has been under the spotlight of our enemies for years.”
He said, “They were vilified, a whole commission was used to deal with the family.”
The family themselves contend that they continue to be targeted by the media due to racism.
Zuma has himself testified at the commission, with allegations that he and those close to Zuma were central to the state capture project that involved close friends the Guptas, as well as Bosasa.
He denied again on Tuescay that he had ever done anything wrong, and that he has always been misrepresented.
Zuma said: “I have been poisoned myself by those forces,” and he intimated that Watson may have been murdered by the “enemy” to silence him too.
“Farewell, Comrade Gavin. You made your contribution. You left too early for us.”
Watch the funeral below, courtesy of eNCA.