EDITORIAL: Whistle - blowers deserve better treatment
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CAPE TOWN - Whistle- blower Athol Williams deserves the highest honour this country can offer for his bravery in exposing alleged malfeasance involving some companies doing business with the SA Revenue Service (Sars).
Instead, Williams has been forced to flee the country citing concerns about his safety.
The former senior lecturer at UCT's Graduate School of Business provided damning testimony at the Zondo Commission on information relating to the Sars and his former job at management consultancy firm Bain.
The firm was working with former president Jacob Zuma for financial gain through state capture, he testified, adding that UCT, his former employer, had not supported him when he blew the whistle and stepped forward.
Instead, the university continued to do business with companies involved in state capture, an allegation UCT has repeatedly denied.
In a detailed statement on why he has opted to leave the country, Williams said: “Concern for my safety had been growing since I blew the whistle on companies and individuals involved in state capture and testified before the Zondo Commission. Rather than diminish after I testified, these concerns increased while the prospect of prosecutions grew. After Babita Deokaran was assassinated, concerns spiked, because it showed that the authorities were choosing not to proactively protect whistle-blowers.”
To say this is yet another blow to the fight against corruption would be an understatement.
We thought the senseless killing of Deokaran, who played a central role in exposing PPE corruption in the Gauteng Health Department, was enough reason for our government to step up its protection of whistle-blowers. It’s worth mentioning that the same department has a cloud hanging over it regarding the decuplets matter.
But we urge whistle-blowers to make use of the many avenues made available for their protection, including the Protected Disclosures Act.
If the government then fails to protect them, that makes a mockery of our hard-earned democracy. It would send a worrying message that corruption pays, and those exposing it will have to suffer the consequences.
We owe it to those who have paid the ultimate price. Deokaran’s assassination was one too many. We dare not to fail those who are brave enough to take a stand against malfeasance.