Masutha explains weekend stay at PE house where he met Gavin Watson

2019-02-27 16:49
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha (Jenni Evans, News24)

Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Justice Minister Michael Masutha said he inadvertently ended up meeting Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson after it was arranged for him to stay at a house during an accommodation crisis at an ANC rally.

This was revealed during a reply to a question posed by DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, as Parliament's justice and portfolio committee deliberated the ramifications of the unfolding saga of the food contract held by Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations.

The company has been put on notice that its food services contract will be cancelled, after it put itself into voluntary liquidation and some banks said they will not transact with African Global Operations any more. 

This comes amid allegations of corruption made at the Zondo commission into state capture by former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi, who told the commission of bags of money allegedly handed over to some government officials to keep Bosasa contracts in place. 

Breytenbach asked whether Masutha had ever met any of the Watson brothers - Gavin, Cheeky (Dan), Valence or Ronny.  

Masutha admitted that he had indeed met Gavin Watson, but that the meeting was not of his own making.

He said he wanted to attend the ANC's Siyanqoba rally in Port Elizabeth in 2016, but was struggling to find accommodation. 

He was told that locals were making extra accommodation available and asked the person who told him this to liaise with his office, to make the necessary booking and payment arrangements.

He arrived for the rally on a Thursday and was due to leave on Sunday. 

Before his departure, he called the person who arranged the stayover and asked him to thank the owner of the house he had stayed at on his behalf. 

"He said oh no, actually the owners of the accommodation would be arriving at the house to meet me and then I can thank them directly.

WATCH: Inside the ANC's election 'war room' – proudly brought to you by Bosasa

"Well, two gentlemen arrived and one of them introduced himself as Mr Gavin Watson," continued Masutha. 

While they were chatting, the topic of sending an invoice for the accommodation was raised. 

"They said no no, this was part of providing accommodation to delegates who came for the event.

"He then raised an issue to take advantage of our meeting," said Masutha. 

Watson told him that the department had decided to extend the procurement or outsourcing of catering services that Bosasa was providing, but he was concerned that it wanted to break procurement up into smaller parts.

The committee heard earlier that the department had spent R7.1bn for services rendered by the company and its subsidiaries, not only for catering but also for fencing and court security.

Masutha said Watson told him the department also wanted to lower criteria, which according to Bosasa would result in standards "falling short" of international norms.

He told Watson he did not deal with procurement, and that complaints should be put in writing to the department.

"I don't deal with matters informally," said Masutha. 

He said that because he does not deal with procurement, it only became apparent to him a few months later that other service providers were being awarded contracts and that Bosasa was seeking to challenge the legitimacy of this.

The department's approach at that time was that disaggregation was the right way to "disbundle" a "monopoly" in the department, a stance Masutha said he supported.

He realised the circumstances under which hospitality had been extended to him in Port Elizabeth, and "at the very next opportunity" disclosed the meeting with Watson in terms of parliamentary rules. 

"Other than that, I do not recall meeting Mr Gavin Watson or his brothers. If I did, I probably was not aware that it was a relative or himself."

Masutha said he was concerned that no civil action had been taken and that there had been no prosecutions regarding possible violations of laws applying to government officials and departments. He pointed out that he only became minister in 2014, and said that as justice minister he could not interfere in the operations of independent institutions.

However, he was concerned after being told that the police would need to do a forensic audit on some of the claims of the Special Investigating Unit but did not have the budget for the resources required.

His deputy Thabang Makwetla opted to not discuss allegations that he had received a fence and alarm system from a Bosasa subsidiary, saying it was before Parliament's ethics committee and that he would prefer to save the details for when he appears before the Zondo commission.

Comment from Watson was not immediately available, but will be added when it is provided.

Read more on:    bosasa  |  anc  |  michael masutha
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