As Prisons Commissioner in 2004/5, Linda Mti is alleged to have irregularly awarded tenders to BOSASA to the value of approximately R2 billion. The SIU began investigating Mr Mti after it was found that a BOSASA company secretary had allegedly registered a company in Mti’s name, which apparently never traded. The SIU subpoenaed a selection of banking documents and found that BOSASA had paid bribes to Mti in the form of cars and houses.
This SIU investigation began in 2007 and ended in 2009. The BOSASSA Group has ties to Port Elizabeth via the Group CEO, Gavin Watson who founded the group. The beleaguered Eastern Provice Rugby CEO, Cheeky Watson is Gavin’s brother. Other directors of the BOSASA Group include: Papa Leshabane – Executive Director, Chairman – Joe Gumede, Ishmael Mncwaba, Itumaleng Moraba, Carol Oliveria, Thandi Makoko, Munirah Oliveria and Jackie Leyds. Angelo Agrizzi is the COO and Andries van Tonder the CFO.
Gavin Watson, has close links with the governing ANC through his family’s anti-apartheid struggle credentials and his brothers’ post-1994 business interests. A number of people benefiting from BOSASA contracts or linked to Watson and his family had links to Mbeki’s office, including the ex-president’s political adviser, Titus Mafolo, and Mbeki’s head of office, Lorato Phalatse, who is married to former Strategic Fuel Fund chairperson Seth Phalatse.
Watson’s brother, Valence, is the chief executive of Vulisango Holdings, the empowerment partner of controversial mining firm Simmer & Jack. Valence Watson’s business partners include Nozuko Pikoli, the wife of axed prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli, and Siviwe Mapisa, the brother of Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
BOSASA was also linked to the failed R9 Billion prawn farm in Coega. The project, touted as a huge job creator in the Eastern Cape and the world’s first environmentally friendly prawn farm, sparked furious objections from local environmentalists, including South African National Parks (SANParks). Despite the objections the SeaArk prawn farm was driven vigorously by the Eastern Cape government amidst allegations that this was because of the African National Congress connections of the South African empowerment partner in the project, BOSASA Operations. BOSASA CEO Gavin Watson is a member of the Eastern Cape’s influential Watson family, heavy-hitters in the ruling party. The SeaArk Africa project was closed down in 2009.
Despite this failure another prawn farm project was announced in March 2015 and the new venture seeks to use the same technology as SeaArk Africa, with the involvement of BOSASA once again in partnership with the Gauteng government amidst critics claims that BOSASA have a close relationship with the ANC, with BOSASA’s offices in Mogale City hosting the Gauteng ANC’s lekgotla in 2011.
Another brother, Ronnie Watson is involved with a wind farm outside Port Elizabeth which is already courting controversy. Ronald Watson, brother of EP rugby president Cheeky Watson, is behind Inyanda Energy Projects (with it’s business address at 13 Woodfern Road, Fernbrook Estate, Gauteng) which proposes to construct a wind energy facility between the towns of Patensie and Kirkwood, within the Sundays River Valley Municipality. Pitted against Watson are residents and landowners who describe the site as beautiful and unspoilt and argue that the construction of a wind farm will ruin its eco-tourism possibilities. The proposed Inyanda – Roodeplaat WEF will consist of approximately 35 turbines each generating 1.8 – 6.15 Mega Watts (MW)The proposed Inyanda – Roodeplaat WEF will consist of approximately 35 turbines each generating 1.8 – 6.15 Mega Watts (MW) of power depending on the model and size of turbine selected.
22 June 2016
The DA can reveal that the provincial government, NMB municipality, NPA and SIU are conspiring to protect Linda Mti from prosecution, because the ANC and its deployed cadres are the defenders of corruption. Danny Jordaan’s appointment of Linda Mti to high office in the Bay is confirmation of his commitment to upholding corruption in our municipality. The DA has fought this since it was first proposed.
The SIU’s Sefura Mongalo last week reported to EWN that their BOSASA corruption report was only completed in April 2013, at which point it was handed to the Presidency. The DA can disclose that this directly contradicts a 7 December 2009 NPA statement which explicitly outlines how the completed SIU report had been received and forwarded to SAPS for further investigation at a time when Willie Hofmeyr was still head of the SIU. Then Minister of Correctional Services, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, was also handed the report and chose to do nothing with it. DA can thus reveal that the SIU is lying to delay the conclusion of this matter by claiming that their report was only completed 4 years later than it actually was.
Massive prawns, an embezzler and fraudster, allegations of child molesting, as well as political pressure were all ingredients in controversial company Bosasa’s aquafarming disaster. To this day Bosasa prawns’ biggest triumph was to be served as a starter to former president Jacob Zuma on his birthday. The business deals of Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations (AGO), has been in the spotlight since Angelo Agrizzi, former Bosasa chief operations officer, took the stand at the Zondo Commission. His damning testimony of Bosasa’s dodgy dealings has implicated company executives such as CEO Gavin Watson in tender fraud, corruption and bribery to buy influence from key politicians. Bosasa’s business empire is well known for information technology, fencing, security, catering for prisons, but less so for dabbling in prawn farming.
Called SeaArk Africa, the R9bn marine farming project in the Coega industrial development zone in the Eastern Cape promised to produce the biggest prawns in South Africa to all who could afford it, as well as jobs galore. The 1 200ha high-tech facility was touted as the world’s first environmentally friendly prawn farm, with solid political backing in the Eastern Cape. It boasted several Eastern Cape ANC heavies on its board. SeaArk claimed to have perfected the world’s first closed biosecure farming system, which could grow prawns two or three times faster than its competitors. It also promised to employ 11 000 people.
But all the promises turned to dust and despite building what appeared to be a state of the art plant, SeaArk closed down in 2009 without ever getting into commercial scale production. It all started when an American called David Wills convinced Watson that his brand of organic prawn farming was the next big thing back in 2005. Wills soon arrived in South Africa in full force and it seemed Bosasa’s prawn farmers were in business. Wills became president of SeaArk, and was put in charge of the pilot project.
By 2007 Bosasa announced to the world that it would open the world’s first environmentally friendly prawn farm, and boasted about its huge prawns that could be grown in record time. During a visit to the farm, Wills himself pulled fantastically sized prawns from ponds, housed in a space age type facility. Construction was buzzing and restaurants in Port Elizabeth were salivating to get their hands on the prawns.
Using computerised control system, Wills said the ponds were heated to an optimum temperature, algae levels were controlled and the water quality strictly managed to produce his “organic” prawns. SeaArk farmed the pacific white shrimp, which is highly susceptible to viral infections that wiped out populations and could be transmitted to indigenous prawn species. But adding antibiotics to prawns diminished its value, because organic prawns fetched a premium price. Wills insisted his prawns was farmed without any antibiotics, and that he kept it healthy by “eliminating” factors that spread diseases. “It would take a criminal act to sabotage my farm,” he said.
But the criminal was already present. Wills was a convicted fraudster and well known in US circles as pretending to advance animal rights, while actually exploiting them for financial gain. Bosasa’s international partner was in fact a disaster waiting to happen. In 1995 Wills was sacked as vice-president of one of the world’s largest animal rights organisations, the Washington-based Humane Society of the US, after being accused of fraud and sexual harassment. In 1999, he was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $67 800 for embezzlement, with prosecutors alleging that he gambled the money away in Las Vegas.
Wills’ claims that the project was environmentally sound also backfired when it sparked furious objections from local environmentalists, including SA National Parks. At the time, there were allegations that the Eastern Cape Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) had been fast-tracked because of Bosasa’s political connections. Funding became a struggle for SeaArk, and after lying about an alleged R70m Saudi Arabian deal, no more money flowed into the project. Leshabane blamed a lack of investment and Eskom’s escalating electricity tariffs for its resulting death.
Child molesting allegations
After SeaArk collapsed Wills returned to Texas to start another multimillion-dollar prawn farming venture called Global Blue Technologies-Cameron (GBT-C). There it emerged that apart from being a fraudster, Wills may be a child molester as well. He was arrested in 2015 on federal charges of child trafficking. Prosecutors allege that Wills paid a woman to have sex with her daughter over the course of several years, starting when the daughter was nine years old. After several delays Wills is now scheduled for trial next month, and the charges are of such a nature that the 66-year-old will spend the rest of his life in US federal prison if convicted.
In hindsight associating with a character like Wills was probably not the best idea that Bosasa had. It also later emerged that the project’s Australian lead scientist was the real brains behind the operation and he later sued SeaArk over the project’s intellectual property rights.
Gauteng Prawn Farming
But Bosasa was not yet done with its prawn farming. Six years after the Eastern Cape plant had failed, it announced that it would open a multimillion-rand prawn farm on the West Rand, near Bosasa’s headquarters in Krugersdorp. Instead of SeaArk the new venture would be named Bio-Organics. The Gauteng government threw its weight behind the project, which is not surprising taking into account Agrizzi’s testimony about Bosasa’s links with Gauteng ANC leaders such as Nomvula Mokonyane.