Babita Deokaran’s family says her killing was a hit as someone wanted to silence her
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Johannesburg - Gauteng police were on Tuesday not able to link the killing of a senior provincial health official to the ongoing personal protection equipment scandal probe.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) revealed on Tuesday that Babita Deokaran, the chief director of financial accounting at the Gauteng Department of Health, was one of 300 witnesses in one of the SIU’s investigations into corruption in the awarding of tenders for PPE.
Deokaran was shot several times outside her Joburg-south, Mondeor, home after dropping off her child at school on Monday morning.
The department said Deokaran died in hospital several hours after the shooting. However, her family believes her killing was a hit.
“Someone tried to silence her because she was someone who always did things the right way,” said Bishop Tony Haripersadh, her brother-in-law. He is married to Deokaran’s sister, Pastor Shamilla Haripersadh.
Tony Haripersadh said Deokaran had confided in the family that she was a “key” witness in the investigation.
“She stood for what was right and she was not afraid. Our dear sister died a noble woman; our family salutes her. All we want now is justice and for the perpetrators to be brought to book.”
He said Deokaran, formerly of Phoenix in Durban, was the centre of their family and was one of eight children. The slain woman was expected to be buried in Durban this week.
Gauteng police spokesperson Kay Makhubele said a manhunt for the killer or killers was launched following the shooting. Police were investigating a murder after a case was opened at Mondeor police station, he said.
“We have no knowledge of a probe into a personal protection equipment scandal in the provincial health department as it is not with us.
“We are only investigating a murder. We have not yet established the motive. We have not yet arrested the perpetrator or the perpetrators. Police at this early stage of the investigation are not in a possession to link this murder to anything or anyone,” he said.
Police investigators in unmarked vehicles were on Tuesday spotted inside the complex where Deokaran lived.
Echoing police, the SIU said there was as yet no link between the shooting and Deokaran’s involvement in its investigation as a witness.
“We don’t know. No one knows right now. However, we call on the police to do their investigations and we will assist however possible,” the SIU said.
The unit is said to have about 300 witnesses in its case.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told Newzroom Afrika that all their witnesses “are very crucial” as they form part of the investigation.
Kganyago could not specify what Deokaran’s evidence would have dealt with.
Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi said Deokaran was an “invaluable” member of the department’s team who “rose up the ranks” in the public service “in the last three decades”. The MEC called on the authorities “to leave no stone unturned” as they probe the murder.