File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Phaahla calls for protection of whistlebowers after murder of Babita Deokaran

By Siyabonga Mkhwanazi Time of article published Oct 1, 2021

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Health Minister Joe Phaahla says the murder of senior Gauteng health official Babita Deokaran underlines the need for greater protection for whistleblowers.

He said the police were still were working on her case even as six suspects have already appeared in court in connection with her murder. They were arrested in KwaZulu-Natal and are on trial in Gauteng.

He said the government would ensure that whistleblowers of corruption are protected.

Phaahla was replying to a written parliamentary question from Magdalena Hlengwa of the IFP on the murder of Deokaran in August, and the lack of protection for whistleblowers especially in Gauteng.

Hlengwa also wanted to know what measures he had taken to collaborate with Police Minister Bheki Cele to protect whistleblowers.

“As the Ministry we must express our outrage at this barbaric act on a very loyal civil servant who was merely doing her job. We find this act of taking someone’s life for simply doing her job, quite outrageous,” Phaahla said.

He added that if “this can happen to someone who is doing their work” it raised very serious concerns about the safety of whistleblowers not only in the Gauteng department of health but “the civil service in general”.

“The murder of Babita Deokaran is under investigation by the South African Police Service working with the SIU and we have been informed that some arrests have been made, we welcome this very much, and further hope that this will go far in getting to the bottom of getting the criminals who are behind this.

“The SIU has also called on whistle-blowers to report any suspected or actual threats on their lives so that the relevant witness protection processes can be invoked.

’’The Department of Health welcomes this call by the SIU and commits to collaborating with law enforcement agencies, in any way possible, to ensure the uprooting of corruption and that everything is done to protect loyal citizens and public servants who come forward to come and disclose information on criminal activities.

’’We are following this case and are working with the Gauteng department so that similar cases are dealt with and our workers are protected in this regard,” said Phaahla.

The SIU has been probing a number of cases related to PPE tender corruption since the outbreak of Covid-19.

It has referred some of the cases to the Special Tribunal to recoup the funds paid wrongfully through corrupt issuing of tenders.

However, it is still continuing with other the cases amounting to millions of rand.

There was a huge public outcry when the PPE scandal broke out last year and this led to government to institute an investigation.

The government roped in the SIU, the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority, the SAPS, the Auditor-General and other agencies to get to the bottom of the looting of the public funds.

Political Bureau

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