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How Gavin Watson stole Bosasa from ANC Women’s League

2019-10-21 00:00

A new book details how the controversial businessman tricked the women into signing their company over

The late Gavin Watson swindled a group of “clueless” ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) leaders out of their company, which later scored billions of rands in corrupt tenders from government and state-owned entities.

This is mentioned in a new book by Adriaan Basson, titled Blessed by Bosasa: Inside Gavin Watson’s State Capture Cult.

It goes on sale on Monday.

Basson traces the genesis and operations of controversial company Bosasa, and writes of how Watson and his brothers used the members of the ANCWL – who include prominent leaders and struggle royalty – to establish the company and get a head start on signing lucrative government contracts.

Some of the people drawn into the project, which landed Bosasa and the Watsons at least R12 billion in contracts, include former Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, former minister Nomvula Mokonyane and other prominent ANC activists such as Lindiwe Maseko, Nozuko ‘Girly’ Pikoli, Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, Nomatyala Hangana, Makho Njobe and Adelaide Tambo, who served in an advisory capacity,

Most of them got little, if anything, in return.

Nomvula
Nomvula Mokonyane kept her close ties with Watson and benefited handsomely with braai packs, alcohol, security upgrades to her homes and cash

While most of the female leaders were distancing themselves from the company when it courted media attention on how it operated the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp, Mokonyane kept her close ties with Watson and benefited handsomely with braai packs, alcohol, security upgrades to her homes and cash.

The book details how Mokonyane was the sole representative of the ANCWL when Watson negotiated the purchase of Meritum (which would belong to the ANCWL leaders) from Fanie van Zijl, a Springbok middle-distance runner.

Van Zijl said: “Watson was representing the ANCWL. He said: ‘Let’s go to Johannesburg to see the ANCWL.’ When we got there, it was only Nomvula Mokonyane at the meeting. I didn’t know her.”

Mokonyane, who is in mourning following the death of her husband, spoke passionately at Watson’s memorial in August, saying it was not anyone’s place to judge Watson, who died in a car accident near OR Tambo International Airport.

“What he was doing together with Angelo Agrizzi [who detailed Watson’s corrupt dealings at the state capture inquiry], only his Creator will deal with. Who are we to judge? What we know is that every day Gavin used to say: ‘Forgive us for our trespasses.’”

Agrizzi, together with Bosasa’s former head of facilities and fleet, Frans Vorster, revealed the extent of Bosasa’s hold on the ANC and Watson’s closeness to Mokonyane at the inquiry into state capture earlier this year.

Both told of how close Watson and Mokonyane were, with Vorster testifying as follows: “We always had to jump when it was for her and make sure that she [got] special treatment. She did not wait for anything. If he [Watson] said ‘Do that’, you would do it immediately and make sure whatever was asked was delivered.”

Mokonyane, said Vorster, was “like an employee at Bosasa; she was there the whole time, and it became apparent over the years that she was like the key person … and had huge political contacts even to [then president Jacob Zuma]”.

WATSON’S TAKEOVER

It was at the height of the media storm around Bosasa’s operations at Lindela that the ANCWL leaders were getting dragged into the matter.

Hilda Ndude, an ANCWL leader who left her role in the Western Cape legislature to run the women’s new company, Dyambu, said Watson – who had been brought in only to help the women run the business – advised them “to form a company, Dyambu Operations” with the sole purpose of “adding a feminine touch” to the largely unreformed mining industry at the time.

Gavin Watson
Master manipulator Bosasa’s Gavin Watson. Picture: Oupa Nkosi

When Lindela was in the media for alleged poor housing conditions for foreigners who were awaiting repatriation, the ANCWL leaders “could not be seen as running an inhuman, unhealthy facility where African women and children were being detained and maltreated”.

In a board meeting, Pikoli recalled how the women wanted out of the controversial Lindela contract, saying: “We all spoke with one voice that we did not want to be associated with this new venture at all, and that our company name must be removed from anything to do with the home affairs contract.”

“We exited Dyambu Operations because we did not want to be involved in things involving government tenders,” said Myakayaka-Manzini.

Ndude told Watson to leave the ANCWL leaders out of the Lindela controversy, and he used this opportunity to get his grip on the whole entity.

The book reveals that on August 3 2000, Watson persuaded Ndude to sign an acquisition letter that would “delink” the women from the Lindela operation.

This would prove to be the master stroke that Watson wanted in order to get his hands on the company.

Ndude said she was shocked when Watson said he wanted to buy them out: “In hindsight, I realised how stupid we were. Gavin took us for a ride because it was our company 100%.

“He used our names. Gavin Watson’s name was never anywhere. He was using us to bulldoze into the mines, to get him more business opportunities.

“Gavin is the biggest manipulator … Gavin knows how to corrupt people because he realised black people don’t know anything about money, especially the comrades, because really, we were never involved in issues of money. All that he wanted was people with struggle credentials,” Ndude said.

In the letter to delink the women leaders from the controversy surrounding Lindela, Watson outlined the conditions of the sale of the women’s shares, which he said were worth R5.5 million.

Of this, R1 million would be paid on signature of the agreement, along with a monthly R83 333 payment for 48 months, minus expenses for the Sandton office (which Ndude was confined to), and her flat and vehicle rental.

A further R500 000 would be paid on October 31 2001. Ndude swore that she did not receive a cent.

At the end of 2000, Watson had gotten rid of the ANCWL leaders from Dyambu Operations and changed the company name to Bosasa.

The book details how Watson was brought into Dyambu to assist the women leaders since they had no knowledge of running the business.

Mapisa-Nqakula
The formation of the company to benefit the leaders was discussed at Mapisa-Nqakula’s home in Johannesburg, where Watson’s older brother, Ronnie – a family friend of Mapisa-Nqakula and her husband, Charles Nqakula

The formation of the company to benefit the leaders was discussed at Mapisa-Nqakula’s home in Johannesburg, where Watson’s older brother, Ronnie – a family friend of Mapisa-Nqakula and her husband, Charles Nqakula – was present.

Mapisa-Nqakula stressed that Dyambu was never a front company of the ANCWL but was formed by a group of leaders in their personal capacity.

“We were very raw. We had no clue about business,” she said.

Ndude said the women did not see any conflict of interest between themselves as politicians and the company, which had contracts to clean and cater in the mines.

“We clarified that from the onset with Ronnie … but Ronnie coaxed them that they shouldn’t be shy to use their political influence by saying: ‘No, man, you guys know how to talk, you are leaders, you’ll be able to convince the workers,’” said Ndude.

“We designed everything [the company name and branding], and Gavin was going to run the entity for us. He was brought in to be the overall manager of all operations and business activities of Dyambu.

“We needed someone who was knowledgeable in running a business. Remember, we inherited businesses already in operation at various mines.”

THE SISTERS’ FALLOUT

The book further reveals that at the time of the Lindela controversy, tension started brewing between Ndude and the other women.

“The ladies were getting frustrated because Gavin would speak to me as if he was paying dividends to me,” said Ndude.

“I was just paid a salary. They were angry with me, because they thought I took the money that he told them about.”

Distrust between Ndude and her colleagues – she called them friends – grew as no money was flowing from Dyambu’s business to their pockets.

“We became deeply disappointed by the person we’d appointed to become chief executive officer [Ndude],” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

Ndude was one of a disgruntled group of ANC politicians who left the party to start the Congress of the People (Cope) with leaders Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa.

She succumbed to the lure of money and was convicted of looting funds from Cope.

“I asked for forgiveness and made peace with God. All the good that I have done [during the struggle] will be wiped out … I will be lumped together with those corrupt ones,” said Nduda.


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November 10 2019