5 key facts about Gavin Watson

2019-08-26 15:31
Former president Jacob Zuma with Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson. (Supplied)

Former president Jacob Zuma with Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson. (Supplied)

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Bosasa executive Gavin Watson was killed in a "horrific" car accident in the early hours of Monday morning close to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

The embattled Watson, who used his struggle credentials to secure lucrative business deals after the fall of apartheid, in recent months became the subject of scrutiny as allegations of corruption and bribery started to surface at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

EXTRACT | The Bosasa Billions: Bosasa goes to war

His former lieutenant, Angelo Agrizzi, turned on Watson and revealed him to be the absolute kingpin in the Bosasa empire of bribes, intimidation and cold hard cash.

During Agrizzi's testimony, Watson was painted as the key figure in a nearly two-decade-long scheme that involved paying numerous bribes to government officials and political leaders in exchange for lucrative government contracts.

Data from the National Treasury shows that, between 2004 and 2019, Bosasa netted an estimated R12bn from numerous state departments, a conservative calculation that is likely to increase.

Donation to CR17

Watson was also linked to a R500 000 donation made to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC election campaign, a donation Ramaphosa denied knowing anything about and which was made in such a way as to hide Watson’s identity as a donor.

Since these revelations, the heat was on for Watson, with the South African Revenue Service investigating him to determine whether he had hidden funds from SARS, and exactly how much he may owe in unpaid taxes.

In addition, Watson was facing a multimillion-rand headache after the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled in June that he had to pay back BEE mining shares that complainants say he "stole" more than a decade ago.

The court ordered that Watson had to return 550 shares in Ntsimbintle Mining to Smuts Ngonyama, who is South Africa's ambassador to Spain and a former ANC spokesperson.

Watson also had to pay back any dividends paid to him on these shares since 2006, plus 10% interest per year.

Here are 5 things you need to know about Gavin Watson:

1. The Watson family was heavily involved in the anti-apartheid movement. In the 1970s, Gavin and his three younger brothers played rugby with black people in the Eastern Cape when segregation was at its peak. They joined the ANC and were among the targets of the apartheid state, facing jail time and assassination attempts.

2. He is the older brother of Dan "Cheeky" Watson, the disgraced former EP Rugby president who famously turned down Springbok rugby colours in protest against apartheid. Cheeky's son Luke would ultimately earn 10 caps for the Boks, but was hugely unpopular with teammates and was described as a "cancer" within the team by then captain John Smit in his book. Luke was reported to have said that rugby in South Africa was run by "Dutchmen" and that he wanted to vomit on the Springbok jersey.

3. Gavin Watson was deeply religious, making a point of reading from the Bible and praying at company meetings and events. He held prayer meetings at Bosasa every morning from 06:00 to 08:00. This, he said, was to ensure that "God was a cornerstone of who we should be in the company" and, as a result, Watson explained, his business was founded on Christian principles. In a 2009 video filmed at a conference at the NG Church in Moreleta Park, Watson puts his success in the business world down to a verse from the Bible. "If you ask for the gifts of wisdom, knowledge and good judgement, God will give it to you. This gives you a competitive advantage," he said.

4. Watson donated millions to the ANC. It is understood the donations, conservatively estimated by a Bosasa insider to be R40m, span nearly two decades between 2000 and 2019. Former ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize confirmed that Bosasa had donated "directly and in kind" to the ANC. These donations were used for golf days, birthday parties, birthday cakes, lunch packs, money for major events and rallies, election war rooms, cash donations and friendship.

5. In 2015, Watson received the Trailblazer of the Year award. "On the trail he has blazed for transformation and empowerment in business and society, Watson has always championed women and young people," according to Bosasa’s website.

On Monday morning, Watson seemingly drove a pool car - a Toyota Corolla – instead of his own BMW X5 – into a concrete pillar near the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. He died on impact.

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Compiled by Riaan Grobler

Read more on:    bosasa  |  anc  |  gavin watson  |  johannesburg ­  |  accidents
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