Family and friends gathered at the Feather Market Hall in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday for the funeral of Bosasa boss Gavin Watson. Photo: Raahil Sain/ANA.

Port Elizabeth - Controversial Bosasa boss Gavin Watson was on Tuesday showered with praise at Nelson Mandela Bay’s Feather Market Hall during his funeral, which was attended by dignitaries including former president Jacob Zuma and Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane. 

Watson, who together with brothers were revered as heroes for their participation in the liberation struggle, died in a car crash outside OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg last week.

Addressing thousands of mourners, his colleague Joe Gumede, CEO of Africa Global Operations (formerly Bosasa), said Watson was always the subject of vilification. 

“What pains me personally is that even through his belief in God, people vilified him for that. They made it a joke ... the fact that he led many people to the Lord, people took it as a joke,” said Gumede.

He said Watson made it his passion to invite people to know God. 

“He never forced anybody to come to those prayer meetings, but the people vilified him for it,” said Gumede. 

Gospel hymns sung by his company choir also dominated the service; a reflection of Watson's love for Christianity. 

Speakers delivered their farewell messages on a podium wrapped with ANC colours.

Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Mongameli Bobani of the UDM said Watson cared “not only for the land of his birth - Eastern Cape - but [also] the rest of South Africa”. 

“Today there are many questions and many uncertainties around his passing. But we also have many certainties about his life and legacy. We know that Gavin, his brothers and broader family played a major role in the anti-apartheid struggle. They paid a hefty price for their belief that all people and all races are equal. 

“For their association with anti-apartheid activists and the ANC they began to dominate the headlines and were ostracised by white society, vilified, persecuted and prosecuted,” said Bobani. 

He described the Watson family as filled with “highly-talented rugby players”. 

“The apartheid police quickly learnt that if you strike the Watson family, you strike a rock,” Bobani told mourners.

Political Bureau