Justice denied: The death of Gavin Watson helps some, hinders others

Gavin Watson and former president Jacob Zuma. (Supplied)
Gavin Watson and former president Jacob Zuma. (Supplied)

The untimely death of Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson will have a ripple effect on the investigations of corruption related to him and his company for many years to come, writes Kyle Cowan.

It is nearly impossible to quantify the exact effect and consequences over a long period of time. But it is possible to report with some insight on the immediate repercussions and who is helped or hindered by Gavin Watson's death.

On the other hand, no effect at all is also a possibility. 

Any probe into Watson's direct culpability in schemes perpetrated over more than a decade to pay bribes for tenders or donate to political figures and parties to curry favour, however, will never be fully finalised for one very simple reason - you cannot find a man guilty of a crime if he is not given a proper chance to defend himself.

At the same time, many will now not be able to clear their names without Watson's version of events or, for that matter, be convicted of wrongdoing without Watson being dragged to court and placed under oath.

As News24's editor in chief Adriaan Basson pointed out earlier this week, Watson takes many secrets to the grave. He was also, notoriously, not a note taker.

Taking a look at some of the numerous strands of investigation and events Watson's death affects, here is who benefits and suffers from his death. And some who won't be affected.

President Cyril Ramaphosa

If you take the conspiracy theorists (this particular theory was first driven by the EFF) to heart, you would think that Watson's death somehow benefits Ramaphosa.

But in fact, it neither helps nor hinders the president.

Ramaphosa is seeking to have a report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, which centres on a R500 000 donation made by Watson to Ramaphosa's CR17 campaign, reviewed and set aside by the high court.

News24 previously reported how the funds were paid from Watson's personal account to a Bosasa front company, Miotto Trading and Advisory, and only then on to the EFG2 attorney's trust account used by the CR17 campaign.

Mkhwebane somehow believes the way the transaction was conducted points to money laundering on Ramaphosa's part, for reasons known only to her at this stage.

Ramaphosa is out to clear his name on the whole Bosasa donation fiasco, but what most people, including the EFF seemingly forget, is that neither Watson or Ramaphosa disputed that the donation took place.

So, as far as the review of Mkhwebane's report goes, Watson’s death will not likely have an affect. Besides, he already went under oath before Mkhwebane about the donation, so his version of this particular story is on record.

The perjury investigation recommended by Mkhwebane into Watson's alleged lies surrounding whether or not he donated to the other candidate for the ANC presidency in 2017, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, is another matter.

This investigation is likely to cease in light of Watson's death.

State capture commission of inquiry

The commission is a little more complicated. Watson was implicated by various witnesses, mainly Angelo Agrizzi, in numerous acts of criminiality and corruption. Famously, a video of Watson showed him counting out alleged bribe money in a safe at Bosasa's headquarters.

A recording of Watson speaking with former correctional services commissioner Richmond Mti and Agrizzi, plotting to influence former president Jacob Zuma on the appointment of the next National Director of Public Prosecutions in 2015 also made headlines.

Oral evidence implicated Watson directly in paying bribes for political favour, and News24 has uncovered how Bosasa and Watson donated millions to the ANC over more than a decade.

It is unknown whether Watson ever submitted an affidavit to the Zondo commission. But as it stands, the evidence against him may go unchallenged. Which means it stands, and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo could make findings against those implicated.

Former president Zuma benefits here, as Watson now cannot be forced to go under oath to dispute the allegation that Watson paid R300 000 a month to the Jacob Zuma Foundation, a notorious front for alleged bribes paid to Zuma.

Other politicians who were allegedly paid bribes could also likely benefit from Watson not going under oath.

Correctional services corruption prosecution

Shortly after a group of whistleblowers, led by Agrizzi, testified before the Zondo commisison in January this year, the National Prosecuting Authority acted on a decade-old case involving corruption between Bosasa executives and senior department of correctional services officials.

Mti, the former DCS commissioner, and Patrick Gillingham, the former DCS chief financial officer, were charged together with Agrizzi, former Bosasa chief financial officer Andries van Tonder and former Bosasa manager Frans Vorster.

The charges stem directly from a 2009 Special Investigating Unit report that found bribes were paid to Mti and Gillingham in exchange for Bosasa securing lucrative tenders.

Agrizzi and Van Tonder extensively implicated Watson in the bribery during their testimony before the Zondo commission.

The NPA said on Wednesday that its probe would continue. It remains to be seen how the court will deal with the accused implicating Watson.

The tax man

As News24 reported on Monday, Watson was scheduled to appear before a tax inquiry being held by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), following revelations at the Zondo commission.

The inquiry is seeking to establish the facts surrounding various deals and alleged cash payments by Watson.

It is true that many individuals implicated in receiving monthly cash payments - including Mti and Gillingham, as well as a numerous Bosasa executives - stand to gain from Watson not telling SARS his whole story.

But his death also hinders SARS' efforts to find the truth, and may prevent it from making a full decision on some aspects of Bosasa's tax affairs.

South Africans denied justice

Watson's death, while unfortunate and a devastating loss to his family and friends, is also a loss to South Africa's national psyche.

His passing will cement the idea that corruption and criminals in our country always get away with if they have the right connections.

In fact, Watson had been getting away with Bosasa's corruption for more than a decade while he was still alive.

The country, and his family, may now never get closure. The legacy of Watson will now forever by synonymous with corruption, lies and intrigue.

- Cowan is an investigative reporter at News24.

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