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Former MP Gavin Woods, who investigated Arms Deal corruption, has died

Former MP Gavin Woods, who investigated Arms Deal corruption, has died
Gavin Woods, former Inkatha Freedom Party member of Parliament, on 26 February 2001. (Photo: Jan Botha / Gallo Images)

Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille described Woods as one of the most ethical leaders she had worked with.

Former Member of Parliament and lecturer Prof Gavin Woods died on Monday after a battle with cancer. 

Woods was born in 1948 in Durban and grew up in the KwaZulu-Natal town of Estcourt at the foot of the Drakensberg.

His family said he was the second of eight children.

Woods contracted polio soon after his birth. He first learnt to walk with the help of callipers when he was six years old and underwent more than 50 surgical procedures during his life. 

This meant numerous periods of hospitalisation over the years, two of these being of more than 12 months in duration. He missed a considerable amount of schooling as a result.

His early working career included various accounting and financial management positions.

According to IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa, Woods joined the party after being recruited by the late Mangosuthu Buthelezi in 1984.

Woods later assumed the role of executive director at a policy research institution which focused primarily on research for the IFP and the then KZN government.

He was an MP between 1994 and 2009, serving on public accounts and finance committees. 

Woods came under political pressure while probing the controversial Arms Deal. His investigation saw him receive a letter from Jacob Zuma, who was President Thabo Mbeki’s deputy at the time, “to discourage the investigation”. Woods believed Mbeki wrote the letter.

Woods resigned from his position as chairman of Scopa in 2002 due to what he called interference in the committee’s work by Cabinet ministers, former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni, former National Assembly speaker Frene Ginwala, and then deputy president Jacob Zuma.

He left the IFP in 2005 following Buthelezi’s remarks about his disability and joined the National Democratic Convention.

From 2005 to 2013, Woods acted as a professor of public finance and ethics at Stellenbosch University, starting part-time and going full-time after leaving Parliament. 

Woods served on the Public Service Commission from 2013 to 2017, where he concentrated on service delivery performance and anti-corruption measures.

“Woods was a warm, caring and intelligent person who was loved by many,” said the family in a statement sent to Daily Maverick.

“Gavin is survived by his loving wife, Merja, and children, Paulette, Gareth, Jared and Jaclyn. A private memorial will be held for close friends and family.”

Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille worked closely with Woods during his time in Parliament, when he was investigating corruption in the Arms Deal. 

“He was such an ethical person. The two of us worked very closely on the Arms Deal (investigation) when he was the chairperson of Scopa… he was an intelligent person,” said De Lille.

IFP spokesperson Hlengwa expressed sadness over the news of Woods’ death.

“We extend our condolences to his family on this painful loss. Gavin will be remembered for the valuable contribution he made to exposing corruption in the government by uncovering vital evidence pertaining to the Arms Deal during his tenure as the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. We are grateful for his life.”

Details about his funeral are yet to be released. DM

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