WATCH | Jacob Zuma: 'Gavin Watson was one of few people who visited me at Nkandla'
Former president Jacob Zuma took to the podium at Bosasa boss Gavin Watson's funeral in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, leading mourners in the song "Senzeni na?" (what have we done?).
"We are here to pay our last respects to this extraordinary man who comes from an extraordinary family in this province and in this city," Zuma said.
He said he regarded Watson as a friend, adding that he was one of few people who had been to his home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma said he hoped the investigation into the cause of Watson's accident would clear up any "confusion" around his death.
"I sincerely hope there will be an explanation."
The late Gavin Watson was laid to rest in his hometown, Port Elizabeth, on August 3 2019. The former president of SA, Jacob Zuma, was among the mourners in the Feather Market Centre and was one of the keynote speakers. Subscribe to MultimediaLIVE here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TimesLive
'Hamba kahle', says brother Valence
Brother Valence Watson drew laughter from mourners when he said Zuma's arrival caused his speech "to go out of the window with the arrival of the big man".
“We all know the person Gavin was and how close family was to his heart, including the Bosasa family," said Valence.
Speaking in Xhosa and English, Valence's address received cheers and loud applause from mourners.
He said they were a family who respected everyone: "Our women, our leaders and our church."
"We are here today to say, Hamba Kahle. God took Gavin at the time God appointed. God’s timing is perfect."
Valence said those gathered at the memorial were all leaders who followed Watson’s non-racial beliefs.
“We are in the ANC and the Christian family because we are comfortable there.”
Earlier, mourners ululated as Zuma arrived, bringing dignitaries, including Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane, to their feet.
Zuma took his seat in the front row, next to Watson’s daughter, Lindsey Watson. He sat nodding as Watson’s family and his colleagues paid their final respects and recounted fond memories of life with Watson.
As Africa Global Operations (formerly Bosasa) CEO Joe Gumede recounted memories of Watson, including the daily prayer meetings, Zuma smiled as mourners laughed at Gumede’s recollection of his former boss.
Zuma arrived just after Nelson Mandela Bay executive mayor Mongameli Bobani praised Watson for his role in the anti-apartheid struggle, saying he was vilified for supporting the ANC.
“A great son of the Eastern Cape has come home. It is right that he is laid to rest here. He made his footprints here and will lay his head here," Bobani told mourners.
He said Watson played a remarkable role in the anti-apartheid struggle and the family paid a heavy price for their association with the ANC.
“He was vilified for this. Outrage increased in that they [family members] were white, farmers and highly talented rugby players.
“Their name will go down in the history of this country, especially in their fight for human rights. The apartheid government learnt that if you strike the Watson family, you strike a rock.
“We as the people of the Eastern Cape salute the Watson family for their role in this fight," said Bobani.
'Everyone knew the Watsons'
Mourner Kholiswa Makalima said she had grown up in the Eastern Cape knowing and revering the "mlungu" family who spoke Xhosa.
“Everyone [in the Eastern Cape] knew the Watsons. For us, the family has been a strong anchor both in the province and the country.”
Makalima said Watson’s death was a major loss to the province and South Africa, politically, socially and from a business perspective.
“Watson made a major contribution to South Africa, especially through his company’s youth centres.
“They were pillars of strength, also in sport. He lived a balanced and good life and really helped this province and country.”
Watson died when his car crashed at high speed into a bridge pillar last week within the OR Tambo International Airport precinct.
The cause of the accident is unknown and a team of specialised accident investigators is probing the cause.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Feather Market Centre, with ANC flags draped across the podium and party stalwarts and supporters breaking out in praise songs.
Photographs of the businessman adorned the centre.
Watson and his company were embroiled in controversy earlier this year when his former right-hand man and confidant, Angelo Agrizzi, along with other former executives, blew the whistle at the state capture commission of inquiry on a litany of bribery operations the company allegedly used to secure R12bn worth of government contracts.
Watson died a day before he was to testify before a SA Revenue Services inquiry into his tax affairs. The inquiry resulted from the information that became public after Agrizzi’s testimony to the state capture commission.
Watson, who was an ANC funder, has been hailed a hero of the political party.