The #AmINext protests of the past two weeks were a game-changer for South Africa, writes Adriaan Basson.
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Brett Kebble (left) and his father, Roger, who committed suicide in 2015. (Archive)
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There are obvious similarities between the deaths of Gavin Watson and Brett Kebble. But there is no hard evidence to suggest that there was foul play involved in Watson's accident, writes Mandy Wiener.
If I had a dollar for every tweet, message and phone call I received in the hours after Gavin Watson’s fatal crash asking me if this was "another Kebble?" I’d have enough cash to fill a Bosasa bribe bag. The parallels between the deaths of the two ANC funders and controversial businessmen are inevitably being drawn, particularly by the armchair forensic experts and social media detectives who solved Reeva Steenkamp’s murder so swiftly.
There are indeed similarities between the final chapters of the lives of these two men. Kebble, a modern day randlord and larger than life character, was gunned down in what emerged as an astonishing "assisted suicide" on a bridge in Melrose in September 2005. In court testimony, his self-confessed killers testified about how he had hired them to kill him in order to make it look like a botched hijacking. Life insurance policies paid out despite their confessions.
Adriaan Basson: Dead men tell no tales, and Gavin Watson knew a lot
At the time of Kebble’s death, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had taken a decision to charge him for fraud and contravention of the Stock Exchange Act. He was also entangled in a massive dispute with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) over unpaid taxes and there was a tax inquiry into his affairs. The captain of industry’s lavish and extravagant world was about to come crashing down around him. Kebble was a loud and proud funder of the ANC and bankrolled several members of the ANC’s Youth League at the time.
Similarly, Gavin Watson’s world had also imploded following the tell-all confession of former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi at the Zondo commission. He had been publicly shamed after footage emerged of him preparing bribes in his walk-in safe at the company’s compound in Krugersdorp. The NPA was also preparing to charge him for these corrupt activities and a SARS tax inquiry into his affairs was also in full swing. In fact, he was due to testify at the inquiry 24 hours after his fatal accident. Like Kebble, Watson was an unashamed ANC backer, making donations, funding parties and sponsoring birthday cakes.
In Kebble’s case, he went to the underworld to fetch his killers. In Watson’s accident, he was the only person involved in the crash. As a result, there is rife speculation about the various scenarios that could have occurred. Firstly, it may have been a straight up and down accident. As you can see from my colleague Kyle Cowan’s video on the accident scene, the Toyota Corolla Watson was driving crashed directly into a concrete pillar with no brake marks or skid tracks evident on the road. Maybe he fell asleep or he had a heart attack or a stroke? There is the possibility that, like Kebble, he committed suicide and drove into the barrier in the hope that it would look like an accident. There is the outlier theory, that he was run off the road or possibly chased, by someone who maliciously intended to cause his death for whatever nefarious reason. We just don’t know. (For what it’s worth, Mikey Schultz firmly believes Watson’s death was an accident).
Drawing parallels between the two deaths are inevitable unfortunately. But we are in the business of facts. So what do we actually know so far?
At this stage, there is absolutely no hard evidence that we know about to suggest that there was foul play involved in Watson’s accident. And the police have opened a culpable homicide case, which is standard procedure in cases such as this.
Brett Kebble (left) and his father, Roger, who committed suicide in 2015.
On Sunday morning, Watson called a prayer meeting of directors at his company's office in Krugersdorp. Calling prayer meetings wasn’t an unusual occurrence for Watson who regularly asked colleagues to worship at work gatherings. He had parked his metallic blue BMW X5 in the parking lot and had signed out a company Toyota Corolla for the weekend because his personal vehicle had mechanical problems. Former Bosasa fleet manager Frans Vorster confirmed to News24 the Corolla had a manual gearbox, whereas Watson could only drive automatic cars.
The accident occurred at five minutes after 05:00 in the morning. The damage to the vehicle was severe. The Corolla collided directly with a pillar, as illustrated in Kyle’s video, on the road leading up to the drop-off point at OR Tambo International Airport. It’s understood there is no CCTV footage on that section of road. We don’t know if he had a flight booked although Watson regularly flew to Port Elizabeth where his family lives. (Agrizzi has also speculated on PowerFM that Watson may have been trying to flee the country).
What about the conspiracy theorists who are already suggesting that it may not have been Watson’s body in the car? These are the same conspiracy theorists who regularly tell me that Brett Kebble’s hit was all a setup and he’s living it up on a desert island somewhere with the proceeds of his life insurance payouts. This is despite the fact that there are photos and a video of Kebble taken on the scene of the accident and during a post mortem that were presented to court. Also, I have spoken to the first responders on the scene of Kebble’s death and they are very sure it was him.
Gavin Watson and Jacob Zuma.
Watson’s accident was tragically very violent and identification may be difficult. We don’t know who visited the morgue on Monday afternoon to formally identify him but the Germiston mortuary's registry lists a Gavin Joseph Watson as having been admitted. Perhaps only DNA results will put this one to rest.
Drawing parallels between the deaths of Kebble and Watson is a given but we would be better served by allowing the professionals to do the investigating. The crash scene experts will be looking at the weight of the car, the speed it was travelling, the point of impact and whether there were any skid marks. CCTV would have been a great help with this endeavour, considering the airport is a national keypoint.
Investigators will also be trying to work out if there was a problem with the car itself which may be impossible considering it’s condition. Then the pathologists will be examining Watson’s body to determine the cause of death and whether he may have suffered an event that caused him to black out.
It took weeks for the assisted suicide story to formally emerge in the Kebble murder. There were stories about assassins having been flown in from Mozambique to kill him, about a diamond deal that had gone wrong. Even after Schultz testified in court about what had truly happened in Melrose the night of his death, it may still be possible that that entire version was concocted to disguise the truth.
And we can expect the same from Gavin Watson’s death too. For years to come, there are going to be various versions of the truth told with authority by those who know and those who don’t know, but only one of these will be reality.
- Wiener is a specialist reporter for News24.
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