Slain Babita Deokaran was the ’glue of the family’

By Nadia Khan Time of article published Aug 27, 2021

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Durban: Babita Deokaran’s family believe she could have been gunned down because she was a witness in the Special Investigations Unit’s (SIU) investigation into the Gauteng Department of Health.

Deokaran, the chief director of financial accounting at the department, was killed outside her house on Monday.

The 53-year-old, of Mondeor, south of Johannesburg, had returned home from dropping off her daughter, 16, at school. While waiting to enter her property, gunmen opened fire on her vehicle.

She sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Deokaran was taken to hospital where she died a few hours later.

Her family believes her death could be linked to her being a witness in the SIU investigation into the province’s health department for corruption and fraud. This pertained to the procurement of personal protective equipment.

“Someone tried to silence her … she 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 witness in the investigation. “She stood for what was right and she was not afraid. Our dear sister died a noble woman. We want 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.

“She was the glue of the family. When she moved to Johannesburg, she encouraged three of her siblings to also make the move and she helped them build their lives there. She was selfless and always willing to help others.”

He said Deokaran was loyal to her job and colleagues but family was everything to her.

“She often visited Durban, and ensured that she called her siblings, nieces and nephews daily to find out how they were doing. She also initiated weekly prayer meetings via Zoom during the Covid-19 pandemic. Every Friday, the entire family, irrespective of religion, came together and prayed.”

Haripersadh said Deokaran worked hard to climb the ladder. She completed matric at Daleview Secondary School in 1986. Thereafter, she took up casual employment at the Administration House of Delegates in Durban.

“She worked as a casual employee for an allowance of just R8 a day. She then went on to work as the personal assistant to the then executive director of education, moving to Cape Town. Babita later returned after she secured a permanent post at the House of Delegates.

“In 1997, she relocated to Joburg after she joined the Gauteng Department of Health. She furthered her studies in finance at Unisa. Babita was driven and always wanted to better her life. She worked hard to achieve her goals.”

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said Deokaran was one of many witnesses in the investigation. He said he could not speculate if her killing was linked to the investigation. “We don’t know. No one knows right now.”

Nomathemba Mokgethi, the Gauteng MEC for Health, said: “The Gauteng Department of Health is at a loss for words at this brutal and tragic passing. Ms Babita Deokaran was an invaluable member of the Gauteng Health team.”

Captain Kay Makhubele, a Gauteng police spokesperson, said a case of murder was being investigated. He said the motive was unknown.

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