Babita Deokaran: Justice requires pursuing the masterminds
We are grateful to see some accountability finally for the murder of whistleblower Babita Deokaran with the conviction and jailing of six men on 22 August following a plea agreement (see here).
Deokaran was murdered on 23 August 2021 – two years ago today – and the six men now convicted were arrested and charged within days of her murder and have been in custody since then.
We note the NPA’s explanation in the plea agreement that the six “have given a full account of their involvement” and that they have “provided valuable information, previously unknown, that will assist in the State’s ongoing attempts to bring further persons involved in the murder of the Deceased to justice”.
Deokaran was an advocate for accountability and transparency in her role as a senior manager in the Gauteng Health Department, as she courageously not only exposed instances of tender corruption amounting to about R1 billion at Tembisa Hospital, but also irregularities pertaining to PPE corruption during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Her dedication to her work and her commitment to revealing the truth were acts of immense courage, which ultimately cost her life.
While it’s a welcome step forward that six of those who assisted in her murder have been convicted, and we commend the Hawks and NPA for these convictions, we must not forget that justice is not fully served until every individual involved is held to account. This includes the assassins who fired the shots, those who orchestrated the assassination, and those who masterminded the corruption that Deokaran flagged.
We join her family, civil rights organisations, and concerned citizens in calling for a thorough and comprehensive investigation that ensures all individuals responsible for this reprehensible act are brought to justice.
Protect the whistleblowers
This case underscores the critical role that whistleblowers play in uncovering corruption and wrongdoing. Their bravery in exposing the truth often comes at great personal risk. It is imperative that legislation be strengthened to provide robust protection for whistleblowers, ensuring that they can come forward without fear of retaliation. A society that values transparency, accountability, and justice must safeguard those who have the courage to speak out against corruption and unethical practices.
As OUTA, we continue to stand by the importance of holding those in power accountable and advocating for a transparent and efficient legal system. Babita Deokaran’s legacy reminds us of the critical need to address corruption and promote transparency in all levels of society.
Opposing organised crime
This case also highlights the problem of organised crime, the links between criminal syndicates operating in different sectors, and the state’s failure to address these issues.
Three people linked to the killing are still at large, named by the NPA as Khanyisani Mpungose and Siphiwe Sithole, and a third unknown man. Mpungose and the unknown man are believed to be the shooters.
The plea document outlines how the six who were jailed became involved when Mpungose approached Phakamani Hadebe (accused number 1, who drove one of the vehicles, jailed for 22 years). Mpungose was “well known” to Hadebe “through his employment in the taxi industry” and wanted “assistance” with Deokaran “as she was seen as a problematic person”, say court papers. Hadebe in turn brought in the other five, all linked to the taxi and transport industry. The six were found with two guns on them when they were arrested, although these were not the murder weapons.
We call on the Hawks and NPA to pursue this case with determination, and for the state to ensure they have the resources to do this.
We want the three missing men found and brought to justice. We want to know who the two assassins were and on whose orders they were acting. We want all those involved in conniving to steal at least R850 million from the Gauteng Department of Health through Tembisa Hospital (about double that hospital’s intended procurement budget in 2020/21) brought to justice.
Deokaran’s family has a right to know.
A soundclip with comment by OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage is here.
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