'He had a big heart': Family pays homage to Gavin Watson at memorial

By Getrude Makhafola Time of article published Aug 30, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG - The family of the late Bosasa boss Gavin Watson described him as a hard-working family man, a fitness fanatic and a man of God who cared and treated everyone as equals.

A memorial service was held for Watson in Roodepoort, Johannesburg on Friday. The businessman died in a car crash outside OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.

His only son Roth said his father used to say "a family that prays together stays together".

"My father taught all of us the Lord's Prayer. He would come to my house, or my sister's house and around dinner we would say the Lord's Prayer. His immense love and faith in the Lord was unshakeable, his love for his work consumed his world," said Roth as he fought back tears.

"Dad used to say [that a] family that prays together stays together. Some nights he would come to our house or my sister's house and we would say the Lord's prayer....he had a big heart and cared about the next human being."

Gavin's brother Valance said the family was angered by "years of persecution" he said were meted against his late brother. He accused the media of being "callous" and fuelling racism in the country.

"You have no idea how we felt. He told me attacks on him were affecting his family and Bosasa. What bothered Gavin towards the end, about 18 months ago, was the vicious and callous press out there...not just for Gavin but it is creating an environment of racism," he said. 

"It bothered him and he couldn't understand why. He believed in this country and loved it. As South Africans we despise racism, we despise people who try to tear us apart. Gavin did not subscribe to evil, he subscribed to good."

Watson made headlines when former Bosasa CFO Angelo Afrizzi alleged that the late businessman was the mastermind behind Bosasa's dodgy contracts with the government worth billions of rands.

The former CFO said he decided to come clean and reveal all, and told the state capture commission of inquiry that he was tasked with organising bribes in cash for former president Jacob Zuma, Cartier pens, a Louis Vuitton bag stuffed with banknotes for former South African Airways board chairwoman Dudu Myeni, and in the case of former water affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane, huge orders of food and drinks for Christmas.  

Politicians and heads of prisons were provided with free state-of-the-art-security systems at their properties, courtesy of Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations.

The former water affairs minister attended the memorial service along with Limpho Hani, widow of slain SA Communist Party leader Chris Hani. Mokonyane took to the podium and lashed at those in the governing African National Congress who "turned their backs" on Watson and would not be associated with him anymore. She praised Watson for supporting the ANC and taking care of vulnerable people across the country.

An inconsolable Joyce Mazibuko, the family's domestic worker for years, said Watson was there for her and her family.

"I've never slept without eating, he looked after me.  My cries never fell on deaf ears..when I asked, he gave. He never treated me as a maid. He treated me as part of his family and my life changed in a good way because of him, and I wish his children would treat me the same way....God, please give me strength," she said as she wiped tears away.

Bosasa executive Papa Leshabane said the businessman was chosen by God to be their leader, and that was the Gavin Watson that his family and staffers at Bosasa knew.

"Watson was chosen by God to lead us. Show me one CEO who knew staffers by name, or didn't have a big corner office.  He always spoke about people, passion and purpose. That was the Gavin Watson that we knew."

Watson will be buried next week in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape.  

African News Agency (ANA)

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