Gavin Watson's brother: 'My speech went out of the window with the arrival of the big man, Zuma!'

Former President Jacob Zuma addressed mourners at Gavin Watson's funeral on Tuesday.
Former President Jacob Zuma addressed mourners at Gavin Watson's funeral on Tuesday.
Image: Graeme Hosken

Valence Watson, brother to Bosasa boss Gavin Watson, who was killed in a car crash last week, delivered an emotional tribute at his funeral in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

But he also drew laughter from mourners when he said former president Jacob Zuma's arrival caused his speech "to go out of the window with the arrival of the big man".

“We all know the person Gavin was and how close family was to his heart, including the Bosasa family," said Valence.

Speaking in Xhosa and English, Valence's address received cheers and loud applause from mourners. 

He said they were a family who respected everyone: "Our women, our leaders and our church."

"We are here today to say, Hamba Kahle. God took Gavin at the time God appointed. God’s timing is perfect."

The late Gavin Watson was laid to rest in his hometown, Port Elizabeth, on August 3 2019. The former president of SA, Jacob Zuma, was among the mourners in the Feather Market Centre and was one of the keynote speakers.

Valence said those gathered at the memorial were all leaders who followed Watson’s non-racial beliefs.

“We are in the ANC and the Christian family because we are comfortable there.”

Zuma's arrival

Earlier, mourners ululated as Zuma arrived, bringing dignitaries, including Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, to their feet.

Zuma took his seat in the front row, next to Watson’s daughter, Lindsey Watson. He sat nodding as Watson’s family and his colleagues paid their final respects and recounted fond memories of life with Watson.

Former President Jacob Zuma and Gavin Watson's daughter, Lindsey, greet mourners at the Feather Market Centre in Port Elizabeth where his funeral was being held on Tuesday.
Former President Jacob Zuma and Gavin Watson's daughter, Lindsey, greet mourners at the Feather Market Centre in Port Elizabeth where his funeral was being held on Tuesday.
Image: Graeme Hosken

As Africa Global Operations (formerly Bosasa) CEO Joe Gumede recounted memories of Watson, including the daily prayer meetings, Zuma smiled as mourners laughed at Gumede’s recollection of his former boss.

Zuma arrived just after Nelson Mandela Bay executive mayor Mongameli Bobani praised Watson for his role in the anti-apartheid struggle, saying he was vilified for supporting the ANC.

“A great son of the Eastern Cape has come home. It is right that he is laid to rest here. He made his footprints here and will lay his head here," Bobani told mourners. 

He said Watson played a remarkable role in the anti-apartheid struggle and the family paid a heavy price for their association with the ANC.

“He was vilified for this. Outrage increased in that they [family members] were white, farmers and highly talented rugby players.

“Their name will go down in the history of this country, especially in their fight for human rights. The apartheid government learnt that if you strike the Watson family, you strike a rock.

“We as the people of the Eastern Cape salute the Watson family for their role in this fight," said Bobani.

Jacob Zuma sat in the front row among family members at Gavin Watson's funeral.
Jacob Zuma sat in the front row among family members at Gavin Watson's funeral.
Image: Kathryn Kimberley

'Everyone knew the Watsons'

Mourner Kholiswa Makalima said she had grown up in the Eastern Cape knowing and revering the "mlungu" family who spoke Xhosa.

“Everyone [in the Eastern Cape] knew the Watsons. For us, the family has been a strong anchor both in the province and the country.”

Makalima said Watson’s death was a major loss to the province and South Africa, politically, socially and from a business perspective.

Bosasa boss Gavin Watson's funeral started at 11am at the Feather Market Centre in Port Elizabeth.
Bosasa boss Gavin Watson's funeral started at 11am at the Feather Market Centre in Port Elizabeth.
Image: Werner Hills

“Watson made a major contribution to South Africa, especially through his company’s youth centres.

“They were pillars of strength, also in sport. He lived a balanced and good life and really helped this province and country.”

Watson died when his car crashed at high speed into a bridge pillar last week within the OR Tambo International Airport precinct.

The cause of the accident is unknown and a team of specialised accident investigators is probing the cause.

Gavin Watson's funeral programme.
Gavin Watson's funeral programme.
Image: Supplied

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Feather Market Centre, with ANC flags draped across the podium and party stalwarts and supporters breaking out in praise songs.

Photographs of the businessman adorned the centre.

The funeral letter for Bosasa boss Gavin Watson who died in a car crash last week.
The funeral letter for Bosasa boss Gavin Watson who died in a car crash last week.
Image: Supplied

Watson and his company were embroiled in controversy earlier this year when his former right-hand man and confidant, Angelo Agrizzi, along with other former executives, blew the whistle at the state capture commission of inquiry on a litany of bribery operations the company allegedly used to secure R12bn worth of government contracts.

Watson died a day before he was to testify before a SA Revenue Services inquiry into his tax affairs. The inquiry resulted from the information that became public after Agrizzi’s testimony to the state capture commission.

Watson, who was an ANC funder, has been hailed a hero of the political party.

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