State capture whistle-blower Athol Williams flees country after seven months of living in fear
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Cape Town - It has been seven months since former UCT lecturer and poet Athol Williams testified at the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.
Williams, speaking to the media on Tuesday, said he was worried about his safety after blowing the whistle on companies and individuals during his testimony.
“I have taken this action to protect myself because I know my government won’t, but our real danger is state capture is current; the plans that were developed are current. Why is the president not setting aside funds to protect whistle-blowers and why isn’t he taking legal action?”
He said that standing up and speaking out about corruption had left him with no place to turn to for support and protection.
After implicating 39 parties in his testimony, Williams said the murder of Gauteng health official Babita Deokaran heightened his fears that he too would be silenced.
Institute for Accountability director advocate Paul Hoffman said there was insufficient legal protection of whistle-blowing in South Africa.
“We need legal reform. We need civil society to take a careful look at its attitude towards whistle-blowers and to be more supportive of whistle-blowers. We need the medical professions to stand up for whistle-blowers by giving pro-bona or contingency-fee assistance for whistle-blowers,” Hoffman said.
In June, Williams alleged that UCT offered him money, in the hope that he would stop asking whether it used companies caught up in state capture allegations.
Williams said the state has failed him and other whistle-blowers because the government had not assigned an authority to protect them.
“If there’s anyone who can do something, our president can do something. Obviously no one wants whistle-blowers to be able to speak, because they will speak the truth. They have let down all South Africans, preferring empty statements and platitudes over sincerity and authenticity.
“We are losing our battle against corruption because our government is allowing it, if not participating in it,” he said.
Responding to Williams’s situation, ANC policy head Jeff Radebe, told the media that he was unfamiliar with the details Williams was talking about. He said there had to be justice for the many people or entities involved in state capture.
Radebe added: “Through the Department of Justice, there are measures that are being done to ensure that whistle-blowers are protected properly and also resources are being deployed in the Department of Justice to protect whistle-blowers.”