One year on, still no justice for murdered whistle-blower Deokaran

Babita Deokaran.Image:File

Babita Deokaran.Image:File

Published Aug 24, 2022


Yesterday marked a year since whistle-blower Babita Deokaran was shot dead outside her Johannesburg home after dropping off her daughter at school, and yet there has been no conviction to date.

Deokaran, who was chief director: financial accounting in the Department of Health, was a critical witness in a tender fraud investigation related to personal protective equipment (PPE) in Gauteng.

Deokaran’s family is hopeful that justice will prevail. Yesterday, they held a wreath-laying ceremony in her remembrance.

Her family and a number of civic organisations and foundations remembered the brave woman who was killed because she was attempting to put the brakes on corruption.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Active Citizens Movement and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) organised a tribute for Deokaran at the Mondeor Baptist Church in Johannesburg last night.

The six suspects who allegedly gunned down Deokaran were due to appear in the High Court in Joburg today.

The court heard last month that the State had 1 600 pages of evidence against her alleged murderers.

Corruption Watch’s Karam Singh said it was a tragic occurrence when officials who were doing their job in some cases now were going beyond the call of duty in terms of sharing information with law enforcement about wrongdoing.

Singh said ultimately this put their lives and safety on the line. One year on, despite talks about the protection of whistle-blowers, which was highlighted in the state capture commission, no progress had been made, Singh said.

“It is encouraging to see that the perpetrators of the offence have been brought into custody but ultimately what they sought to do was not just to silence Deokaran but ultimately to have a chilling effect broadly on those that seek to expose corruption.

“What Corruption Watch has been about broadly as a society is now trying to move to a place where there is recognition, support and greater protection for those that want to come forward with allegations of corruption,” said Singh.

Nine days ago, Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced that he was finalising the appointment of an independent forensic investigator following allegations surfacing from the Deokaran murder case.

Makhura said he had noted the media interest in the latest developments of Deokaran’s investigations.

According to media reports, Deokaran was on a mission to put a stop to alleged corrupt dealings at Tembisa Hospital.

“The Gauteng provincial government is treating this matter in a very serious light and, consequently, the Office of the Premier is finalising the process of appointing an independent forensic investigator to investigate the allegations that have surfaced relating to the case,” said Makhura.

He said labour matters relating to officials implicated in this matter had been referred to the Head of Department (HoD) of Health, Gauteng, to deal with them as per the Public Service Act (PSA) and Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

“While we are committed in ensuring that decisive action is taken against public servants that have been found to have failed in discharging their responsibilities in line with the PFMA, we need to ensure that our actions are in line with the PSA and other applicable prescripts,” said Makhura.

He also cautioned that the issues related to the tragic death and murder of Deokaran were still under investigation by law enforcement agencies and he appealed to members of the media to allow law enforcement agencies space to do their work.

Makhura said the Gauteng provincial government remained committed in its efforts to fight fraud and corruption and its drive to build a culture of integrity and ethics among public officials, public servants, businesspeople and civil society.

He said the provincial government continued to strengthen control systems to prevent fraud and corruption while improving its capacity to detect, investigate and take appropriate action, including instituting disciplinary action, against staff, referring matters for criminal investigation and initiating processes to recover losses incurred by the state.

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