Johannesburg – The death of former African Global Operations (formerly Bosasa) chief executive Gavin Watson has left many questions unanswered, including its effect on the inquiry into state capture.
As the first day of the South African Revenue Service (Sars) tax inquiry begins today, officials remain tight-lipped around Watson’s death. He was scheduled to testify at the inquiry on Tuesday, led by advocate Piet Marais SC.
Sars, among other issues, intends to establish facts on allegations that Bosasa had over the years dodged its tax obligations. But as news of Watson’s untimely death surfaced on Monday, the organization declined to comment on the way forward alongside the inquiry where Watson has been implicated in dodgy government tender deals and possible acts of money laundering.
And while Watson’s death may be a setback for some entities investigating him, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said despite his death, a probe into those involved in Bosasa-related scandals would go head.
“Our investigations will continue. A decision about Watson following his death will be made by the senior investigators and the prosecution. We will continue our investigation into Bosasa following what was brought to our attention,” Mulaudzi said.
At the time of his death, Watson was on his way to OR Tambo International Airport when his Toyota Corolla slammed into a barrier, killing him on the spot. According to some news reports, his flashy BMW SUV was parked in the basement of the African Global Operations offices in Krugersdorp. It is still unclear where Watson was travelling to.
The ANC in a statement on Monday extended its “heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, and comrades of Cde Gavin Watson”.
Spokesperson Pule Mabe said Watson, alongside his brothers, Ronnie, Cheeky and Valence, had played a role in the Struggle for liberation from an early age.
“It was in his home province of the Eastern Cape, where Cde Gavin Watson made the admirable and brave choice of disassociating himself with the privilege that came with being a white male in apartheid South Africa and chose to participate actively in pursuing the ideals of a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa,” Mabe said.
DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi appealed to the police to conduct a thorough investigation into the death of Watson. “The police need to probe the circumstances leading up to the fateful accident involving the Bosasa boss, whose company has billions of rand worth of tenders with the government and has channelled millions of rand into the coffers of the ANC in general, and specifically the campaign of President Cyril Ramaphosa,” Malatsi said.
He said Watson’s death could have a material impact on the work of the inquiry into state capture headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. “It is therefore vital, given the SAPS stating that a case of culpable homicide has been opened, that even a whiff of foul play is dispelled by a thorough and transparent investigation by the SAPS.
“This is to ensure that other witnesses are not intimidated by this incident and for the commission of inquiry to conduct its work without fear or favour. Angelo Agrizzi’s testimony, as well as the revelations by DA leader Mmusi Maimane of the cozy and potentially corrupt relationship Bosasa, has with the ANC and Ramaphosa indicate that Gavin Watson had a lot to say before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry,” Malatsi said.
There are also plenty of questions regarding Watson’s death and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s investigations and report on the R500 000 the late executive is said to have donated to Ramaphosa’s CR17 presidential campaign.
As part of her remedial actions in the Bosasa report released last month, Mkhwebane gave national police commissioner Kehla Sithole 30 days after the release of her report to investigate criminal conduct against Watson for lying under oath. Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe was last night mum on Watson’s death and what this meant for Mkhwebane’s office.