Gavin Watson an ANC man for years

Bosasa chief executive officer Gavin Watson with then president Jacob Zuma at the company's Krugersdorp headquarters in 2015.
Bosasa chief executive officer Gavin Watson with then president Jacob Zuma at the company's Krugersdorp headquarters in 2015.
Image: Twitter

Gavin Watson was a controversial figure who has been accused of a corrupt relationship with senior government officials.

He was one of the four popular Watson brothers who played a huge role in the fight against apartheid. The Watson family rose to fame in the Eastern Cape during the apartheid -era when Daniel "Cheeky" Watson, a formidable rugby player, created a furore by deciding to play with black South Africans - turning down his opportunity to join the all-white Springboks.

The roots of brothers Gavin, Ronnie, Cheeky and Valence are on a farm near Somerset East in the Eastern Cape. Their father was said to have been a fundamentalist lay preacher who taught his sons that all people are equal. The Watsons were well-known activists in the United Democratic Front.

When they were still young rugby players, and playing with other races, Gavin and Valence once had to lie flat on the floor of a taxi that was taking black players to a stadium surrounded by armoured police vehicles. Black players often stayed at the Watson home.

An expert has been appointed to probe the death of Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson who was killed when the car he was driving ploughed into a bridge pillar close to Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport on August 26 2019. As investigations continue, people on Twitter had conclusions of their own.

The Watsons' proximity to the ANC in the apartheid era did not go unnoticed as Bosasa enjoyed tenders worth billions of rands from the state for over a decade. Watson started Bosasa, which had a number of subsidiaries including Sondolo IT, Phezulu Fencing and Leading Prospect Trading.

The Bosasa group won government tenders to provide food and security to prisons, to feed and transport refugees at the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp, and to provide security at the country's courts and airports.

Bosasa, which has since changed its name to African Global Operations, has won tenders worth more than R10bn from Airports Company SA as well as from the departments of correctional services, home affairs and social development, since 2003.

Of the 240 prisons in the country, the department of justice and correctional services has 31 prisons whose catering services have been procured from private companies. Bosasa is contracted to 26 of those. In 2010, reports emerged that Watson was under investigation by the Hawks for allegedly bribing top prison officials in exchange for lucrative state tenders.

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