Mbalula confirms 'full investigation’ into Gavin Watson’s death
News / 1 September 2019, 10:33am / Piet Rampedi, Mzilikazi Wa Afrika and Karabo Ngoepe
Johannesburg - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has roped in other law enforcement agencies to launch “a full investigation” into the circumstances under which controversial businessman Gavin Watson died on Monday morning.
This follows earlier reports from a police source that the SA National Roads Agency, which monitors that strip of the freeway where the accident occurred, was refusing to release footage of the accident to the police. The source said he suspected foul play.
But in an interview with the Sunday Independent on Friday, Mbalula confirmed that his department has launched an investigation into Watson’s death after he saw footage from the accident.
“There are other law enforcement agencies involved and the family, to look at the investigation and circumstances (to check) if there is anything beyond the mere accident that we have seen.”
Mbalula described Watson, the chief executive of African Global Operations, formerly known as Bosasa, as a well-known comrade who had dedicated his life to the Struggle.
These are some of the loose ends around Gavin Watson's death
It is alleged that his phone was traced to a residential area in Germiston and later in Bryanston before it was switched off. If this was the work of thieves, why did they leave his wallet, which according to the family had R70 in it, in the car? One of Watson’s credit cards was also missing.
Although reports alleged Watson left his family home at 5am for OR Tambo International Airport, no airline tickets, luggage or passport was found in the car.
If he was meeting someone at the airport, why hasn’t that person come forward to say he never arrived?
Reports allege that the car was stripped soon after it was towed by the police to an impound. Forensic experts say this might have compromised evidence. Also, questions were raised as to why his car was towed by a police flatbed instead of an authorised insurance tow truck.
The Neck Wound:
Family suspect foul play, especially because Watson’s daughter allegedly told a family gathering that the gash on her father’s neck looked like a stab wound. She added that his face didn’t have scratches like someone who was involved in a horrible accident.
Watson died instantly after the car he was driving, a Toyota Corolla, crashed into a pillar of a bridge near OR Tambo International Airport just after 5am.
Not a single person, including his family members and business associates, has so far explained why Watson was rushing to the airport since no flight was booked for him and he had no luggage in the car when he met his death.
Watson’s family have hired a private investigator to probe the circumstances surrounding his death after his daughter Lindsay Watson raised concerns about a suspected stab wound in his neck, sources close to the family said this week.
They said Lindsay told a family meeting on her return from the mortuary, where she identified her father’s body, that the wound on Watson’s neck looked like a stab wound.
Sources said after the news of Watson’s death, the family gathered at his house in Morningside, Johannesburg, to try to piece together what could have happened to him. One of the 12 people who were at the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak for the family, said Lindsay briefed her mother, Leigh-Ann Watson, siblings and close relatives after identifying her father’s body at a mortuary in Germiston, Ekurhuleni.
“She said his face didn’t have scratches like someone who was involved in a horrible accident, and the wound on his neck looked really suspicious,” said the person.
The second source said Leigh-Ann Watson sat quietly, listening to Lindsay while occasionally sipping a soft drink.
The second source added that she only asked,”What do we do from here?” after Lindsay finished briefing the family.
Based on Lindsay’s report, the Watsons decided to hire private investigator Conrad Lotter to reconstruct the accident scene.
On Saturday, Lotter confirmed being hired by the family but declined to comment further.
Papa Leshabane, the Watson family’s spokesperson, who is also a Bosasa executive, confirmed on Friday that the family did not rule out the possibility of foul play.
“The family will wait for the private investigator to confirm their suspicions. If the investigation shows that it was indeed a car accident, they will accept it,” Leshabane said.
“But if it proves otherwise then they will ask for further investigations.”
He added that the family also wanted closure about the wound on Watson’s neck. “If it was part of the accident, so be it.”
Watson’s trip to the airport remained a mystery to his family, Leshabane stressed. “We all don’t know what he was going to do at the airport when he died. He had no ticket, no luggage and no passport. It doesn’t make sense.”
Watson’s death has sparked widespread conspiracy theories and left more questions than answers.
Many people, especially on social media, questioned some of the official details about how the scene was handled and its overall appearance.
It was alleged that the businessman was driving at more than 120km/h when he approached the curve where the accident happened.
Some people questioned why Watson would be driving at that speed when he was about to enter the airport.
Others asked why the wreckage of his company car was taken by a police flatbed instead of a tow car authorised by Bosasa’s insurance company.
According to media reports, the car had already been stripped when it was seen at the police impound.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said there was nothing sinister in the police towing the vehicle from the scene and taking it to their impound.
“Circumstance as to why police would tow a car to an impound differ. It was taken on a police flatbed to a police impound. You can’t put a car like that in a private impound, because someone died in it,” he said.
Other questions that have been raised relate to the lack of skid marks on the road and the amount of blood found in the car and at the scene.
From pictures seen by Sunday Independent reporters, blood can be spotted on the air bag and Watson’s body, dripping from the wound on his neck.
Leshabane reiterated that the family wanted to find out how Watson’s phone, an iPhone X, was stolen from him.
Police earlier said he was only found with his wallet, which had R70 in it, and an identification card, but there was no cellphone at the scene.
It has been reported that Watson’s phone was traced to a residential area in Germiston and later in Bryanston before it was subsequently switched off.
It is not yet known how the phone and Watson parted ways.
“If hobos, for argument sake, stole the phone from the accident scene, then how did they leave his wallet in the car?” asked another source who also attended the Watson family meeting.
“It was reported during the family meeting on Monday that one of Watson’s credit cards was found missing and that his daughter, Lindsay, blocked it immediately after she realised it.”
Watson died hours before he could meet his lawyers in Pretoria as he was preparing to appear before the tax inquiry led by advocate Piet Marais SC on Tuesday.
The inquiry is part of an ongoing investigation by the South African Revenue Service into his tax compliance.
He had appeared before the same inquiry in the past, sources added.
The inquiry followed from testimony by his former employee, Angelo Agrizzi, at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.
Agrizzi had told the commission that Bosasa, with full knowledge of Watson, allegedly paid bribes to a number of politicians.
He added that the company had also paid for security upgrades at the homes of some of the well-known politicians, including Energy and Mining Minister Gwede Mantashe.
Those who benefited from Watson’s “generosity” included ANC national executive committee member Nomvula Mokonyane, who spoke at his memorial service on Friday.
Agrizzi named Mokonyane as one of the people who had allegedly been on the payroll of Bosasa, telling the Zondo Commission she had received a R50000 monthly payment.
Mokonyane told mourners that she would one day tell her story and what Watson had really done.
“I am sitting here, but News24 is reporting about a former minister of water who was given chicken pieces and whisky. My time will come, I will tell you what Gavin has done. And not what Agrizzi is saying. I will also tell you what Agrizzi has done. My time will come,” she said.
Bosasa was awarded government tenders worth an estimated R12billion since 2006.
Watson also donated R500 000 towards the ANC presidential campaign of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa had misled Parliament about the donation and that the manner in which the money was moved raised suspicions of money laundering. Ramaphosa has since challenged the report in court.