Even in death, Babita cannot be silenced. Picture: Facebook
Even in death, Babita cannot be silenced. Picture: Facebook

Mastermind in Babita Deokaran murder must be brought to book

By Taschica Pillay Time of article published Aug 29, 2021

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Durban - Even in death, Babita cannot be silenced. This act may have tried to silence one voice but it has awoken a million voices against corruption, said the family of slain Gauteng Health official.

Babita Deokaran, 53, a witness in the personal protection equipment scandal, came under a hail of bullets outside her home in Winchester Hills, Johannesburg, on Monday afternoon. She was shot and killed shortly after dropping off her teenage daughter at school.

Deokaran, chief director financial accounting at the Gauteng Department of Health, was assisting with investigations into a personal protective equipment (PPE) tender scandal that had rocked the Gauteng health department.

She was among several witnesses the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has in its probe into the R332-million PPE deal.

Seven suspects, linked to Deokaran’s murder, were arrested.

Colonel Brenda Muridili, national police spokesperson, said that during the arrests, police officers recovered two firearms and two vehicles.

Pastor Tony Haripersadh, Deokaran's brother-in-law, said the family were grateful to law enforcement officials for their swift action and progress with the case.

“We commend the police for their sterling efforts but we hope that they don’t stop until they find the mastermind who took our Babita away from us,” he said.

Haripersadh said Deokaran, a single mother, did not talk of any threats or if she feared for her life.

He said media reports, which stated that each suspect was paid R400 000 to carry out the hit, was irrelevant as her life was invaluable to them.

Neeshan Balton, executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, welcomed the swift arrest of the seven suspects.

“It sends a strong message that mafia-like operations aimed at eliminating corruption fighters will not be tolerated. It is however crucial that those who may have ordered Deokaran’s killing – irrespective of who they are or what power they may wield – are brought to book. The kingpins should not be immune to justice. This is essential to reinforce public confidence in the state’s ability to investigate, prosecute and jail all those who are guilty,” said Balton.

He said a candlelight vigil for Deokaran on Thursday, also remembered other murdered corruption fighters, including Jimmy Mohlala, Moss Phakoe, Noby Ngombane, Ronald Mani, Timson Tshililo, Philemon Ngwenya and Teboho Makhoa.

Balton said that Deokaran’s killing had “struck a raw nerve” among the public.

“There’s been an outpouring of anger, and renewed concern about the safety of honest public servants and whistleblowers. We must however, ask about all the other cases of slain whistleblowers. Many of these have not received sufficient public attention. How many cases have simply ’faded away’ with families left without any justice?” asked Balton.

“We must begin to put pressure on law enforcement to provide answers about how many of these cases are successfully investigated, or are they simply being filed away or ‘disappeared’.”

He added that there was a need for greater political will to ensure policy improvements around whistleblower protection, but to also deal with the root causes of corruption and capture.

“We need to immediately ensure support and protection for corruption fighters. The arrests in the Deokaran case, as important as it may be, will not bring back the mother, daughter, colleague and honest public servant that she was. No other family should have to go through what the Deokaran, Makhoa, Mohlala or Ngombane families – as well as many others – have had to endure.” said Balton.

Sunday Tribune

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