Gavin Watson, the former CEO of corruption-tainted facilities management company Bosasa, led a life far removed from that of a devout Christian and struggle figure, an image that he so carefully crafted.
He bullied and insulted his employees, called black employees “k*****s” and allegedly had a manipulative mistress who earned an enormous salary from Bosasa.
According to an explosive new book by Adriaan Basson, Blessed by Bosasa: Inside Gavin Watson’s state capture cult, Watson stood at the head of what many perceived to be a cult, where he lied and manipulated in order to ensure that government tenders worth billions of rand flowed to the company.
Watson died in a horror car crash in August, while Bosasa is in liquidation and at the centre of state capture investigations.
In his book, Basson reveals that Watson deceived the ANC Women’s League when the company was formed. They believed they owned it, while in actual fact Watson took ownership.
It also uncovers the following: that Watson had pictures of Basson and Willie Hofmeyr, a former head of the Special Investigations Unit, which he blessed and prayed for. He even had a white cross with a picture of Hofmeyr in his garden. How the late Vernie Petersen, a former prisons boss, was hounded from office by then prisons minister Ngconde Balfour and feared for his life when he started questioning the Bosasa tenders. He died a broken man.
That Nomvula Mokonyane, who was fired by President Cyril Ramaphosa and now works at Luthuli House, was “like an employee at Bosasa” and that Watson expected staff “to drop everything” when she made demands.
In February, Basson testified at the Zondo judicial commission of inquiry into state capture about being threatened while he and colleague Carien du Plessis were investigating the corrupt tenders Bosasa won from the correctional services department. He also revealed there were plans to “eliminate” him and take him to a prison in Zimbabwe or Zambia.
Basson writes that Watson’s life was much removed from what he preached, and that among Bosasa employees it was known that he was engaged in an extramarital affair with a “dark-haired, brown eyed enigma” – former rag queen Lindie Gouws.
According to various interviews with senior Bosasa employees and former Watson colleagues, including whistle-blower Angelo Agrizzi, Gouws had an extraordinary hold over Watson and that he almost never challenged or disagreed with her.
Calling herself “the bride of Christ”, and often referred to as “Mrs Watson” or “die grootbaas se cherrie” (the big boss’s girlfriend), she seemingly lived with Watson at a complex in Krugersdorp, with her underwear being spotted on his washing line, her car outside his house while he walked around near-naked in his boxer shorts and doing shopping together. His bathroom was also filled with her cosmetics.
She denied the affair to Basson, saying that she did not have a sexual relationship with Watson. “The rumour was purposefully spread on the [Bosasa] campus that we had an affair. People have a perverted image [of our relationship],” she said.
Gouws was enormously influential in the company. Watson was described as “overpowering”, “dominating” and “forceful”, except when it came to Gouws.
Denise Bjorkan, a former senior former Bosasa employee, told Basson: “She could tell him any crap and he would believe it.” She was concerned about the “hold” Gouws had on Watson and both she and Agrizzi witnessed the loud-mouthed, bullying and botoxed Bosasa CEO cower before her.
Basson details an incident where she threw her car keys at Watson, shouting: “Where is my f*cking laundry?”, while Agrizzi overheard a telephone conversation where Watson was reduced to saying “sorry for this and sorry for that”.
Agrizzi then asked him when will he “stop this sh*t” and quoted a Bible passage about adultery.
Watson told Agrizzi that he wasn’t having an affair. “I said to him, ‘You are having an affair, I’m telling you now. You are the only one who doesn’t know you’re having an affair. Everybody f*cking knows’.”
Basson also reveals details of male executives preying on female staff. One executive bought a fridge for every woman he had sex with, while another was caught having sex on a boardroom table. Cleaners also complained of the company’s guesthouse on the Bosasa premises in Krugersdorp, with “all the semen” staining the desks, floor and beds.
Watson is also portrayed as a bully and bombast who insulted employees who were overweight, and wasn’t afraid to call black employees and colleagues “k*****s”.
He told Agrizzi and senior employee Retief van der Merwe: “You better get these k*****s in line.”
He also called them “darkies”, saying: “Why do you think I employ these k*****s? Because they’re stupid. They’ve got nothing between the ears. They’re thick and I can control them. I can do whatever I want with them; they need the money.”