21 February 2019

South Africa: Gavin Watson Belittles Bosasa Staff, Talks of His Tender 'Networks'

A new video clip has provided a rare glimpse of elusive and infamous Bosasa boss Gavin Watson in action, berating his staff for mistakes that nearly led to the company losing an R800m tender.

Watson, who has run Bosasa since 1999, does not lead a public life. He shot to infamy in January as a result of damning testimony of grand corruption by former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

In the video, he can be heard talking about how he and politically connected fixer for Bosasa Sesinyi Seopela "work in the night, trying to get tenders over the weekend" and speaks of tender "networks" the company ran.

During Agrizzi's testimony, Watson was painted as the key figure in a nearly two-decade-long scheme that involved paying numerous bribes to government officials and political leaders in exchange for lucrative government contracts.

Data from National Treasury shows that between 2004 and 2019, Bosasa netted an estimated R12bn from numerous state departments, a conservative calculation that is likely to increase.

Seopela, who is known as "Commander" in Bosasa circles, emerged as a key figure with strong political connections who was able to open doors to political leaders for the company.

Seopela has previously been approached to comment on these claims and his role at Bosasa, but did not respond.

The video, shot during a staff "imbizo" in March 2017 at Silverstar Casino in Krugersdorp, captures Watson belittling staff.

Tears and sarcasm

He takes his "tender office" to task for mistakes in documents that nearly cost the company a lucrative contract.

At one point he tells Gina Peters, a 17-year veteran of the Bosasa trenches, not to cry.

Watson, in a sarcastic manner, berates Bosasa accounts department staff member Jacques van Zyl.

"Jacques complains that he couldn't do the tenders, because there are so many tenders," Watson says.

Van Zyl also featured in testimony before the state capture commission, when a video was shown of him taking a box, believed to be filled with cash, from a middleman.

News24 also previously reported that Van Zyl was instructed to deposit R276 667 cash into the business account of ANC MP Vincent Smith's company, Euro Blitz 48, on July 14, 2015.

"Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy! Question mark, accurate!" Watson continues in the video.

"We then have to send people around to go and fix up your documents. If we didn't have that network, we would have lost the tender. The tender's R800m," he says.

Watson then asks Bosasa chairperson Joe Gumede, seated in the crowd, if the "tender office" is accurate in its work.

"Definitely not, that's why people shouldn't be complaining," Gumede retorts.

Watson then marches across the room, looking for Seopela, whom he calls "Commander".

"Where's Commander? The two of us (Watson and Seopela) work nights, trying to get tenders over the weekend," he says.

Seopela is a shadowy figure shrouded in mystery. He is not on social media and no pictures of him had been published by any news agency until earlier this week when News24 revealed a picture of Seopela with a Bosasa delegation meeting former ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, taken at Luthuli House in 2014.

"Do we have to run around?" Watson asks. Seopela responds: "Yes, chief."

The video clip is short, only two minutes, but according to Bosasa insiders, it is indicative of how Watson would conduct himself when dealing with staff.

"This is how people are treated in what is supposed to be an open forum to encourage people, an 'imbizo'," one Bosasa insider told News24.

"[Watson] would interject, purposefully embarrass individuals he targeted."

The insider, who did not wish to be named, referred to Peters, who Watson told not to cry in the video.

"Gina has been an employee of Bosasa for 17 years. She has worked nights to ensure that the professionalism of the company is maintained. On weekends she is at Watson's beck and call, having to attend to personal chores. And this is how a Christian deals with people. It's a disgrace," the insider said.

News24 approached Bosasa spokesperson Papa Leshabane to verify if the video was indeed indicative of the manner in which Watson spoke to staff, and to clarify details around the R800m tender mentioned.

At the time of writing, Leshabane had not responded. This article will be updated if a response is given.

On Monday, Bosasa announced the company had been placed under voluntary liquidation following a decision by its bank, FNB, to close Bosasa's accounts at the end of February.

The process to appoint liquidators is now under way with the Master of the High Court in Johannesburg.

News24

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