Various civil society organisations have called on the Presidency to protect whistle-blowers if it is serious about fighting corruption in the country.
The calls were made during the memorial rally of the former chief director of financial accounting in the Gauteng health department, Babita Deokaran, in Mondeor, Johannesburg.
The 53-year-old was gunned down outside her Johannesburg south home a year ago in what is believed to have been a hit. She unearthed alleged corruption in the department which involved PPE contracts, among others. She was also a witness in the SIU’s investigation of the PPE scandal.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s Wayne Duvenage says many whistle-blowers have decided to pull back due to a lack of protection from the government. He says they are worried that little is being done to protect corruption busters.
“We see so much evidence so much information and nothing happens. We implore the powers that be, we implore the presidency to do the work that needs to be done. We cannot be sitting here a year later and nothing has happened with all the stuff we read bout. Since Babithas death, we’ve had several cases where we were working with whistle-blowers, who pulled back and were afraid to go down the same road as Babita.”
Powerful, strong-headed, and the glue that held the family together. That’s how the sister of the late Babita Deokaran remembered her. Ishaleen Ramghoolam says they are struggling to cope with her death.
“You will be etched in our minds forever. We can never move on without you but we will move forward one day at a time, one step at a time. The late great former president, Nelson Mandela would have been proud of this daughter of South African soil.”
One person who relates to Deokaran is Martha Ngoye, a whistleblower who testified at the State Capture Commission about corruption at PRASA. Ngoye, a group executive for legal, remains on suspension. Her suspension is believed to have been motivated by her acting against the agency investing R1-billion in VBS bank among others.
“Justice for Babita should have started with people who harassed her at the Gauteng department of health. These people still enjoy the security of tenure in their jobs. They remain guilty, they remain useful, and they will fully remain untouchable to date. These people are everywhere.”
While the Presidency says plans to protect whistleblowers are ready to be submitted to Cabinet, civil organisations are calling for their immediate protection. The Southern African Institute for Responsive and Accountable Governance’s Advocate Tseliso Thipanyane.
“We want to appeal to the president to listen to our call that please amend the law but more importantly, we want him to do a review that no organ of state should be victimising whistleblowers.”
Deokaran unearthed alleged corruption in the department. She was also a key witness for the SIU in the R332 million PPE corruption scandal.
A recent News24 investigation revealed that weeks before her murder, she raised concerns over dubious payments at the Tembisa hospital. The Head of the SIU, Advocate Andy Mothibi says they will be investigating these fresh allegations.
“In some of the allegations that you have been reading, they were brought to our attention recently by the Gauteng government, in particular the office of the premier, these are the allegations relating to Thembisa hospital they are under our consideration at the moment and will be kicking off an investigation soon on those allegations.”
The Gauteng government recently announced that it is instituting an investigation into the matter. This, one year after Deokaran’s death. The evening ended with a candlelit vigil outside her home.