Two more arrested for whistleblower’s murder


TWO more suspects have been arrested in Johannesburg in connection with the assassination of anti-corruption witness and whistleblower Babita Deokaran.

Police Minister Bheki Cele has revealed during an interview with Newzroom Afrika that in addition to arresting the two suspects, police also seized two cars – a van and a sedan – a firearm and lots of cash. 

The arrests brings to eight, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the August 23 murder of Deokaran (53), whose murder has led to nationwide concerns about the safety of witnesses and whistleblowers.

Deokaran, who was a senior official in the Gauteng Department of Health was a whistleblower in the multimillion personal protection equipment scandal and was due to testify.

Cele said the arrest of the two suspects and the discovery of wads of cash should lead the police to the “paymasters” – the people who ordered the hit on Deokaran.

“Whoever received that money will have to say who paid them,” said Cele.

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Gauteng Premier David Makhura has praised the police but called on the mastermind behind the killing to be brought to book.

Deokaran’s murder has led to assurances from President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Special Investigations Unit that measures were in place to protect witnesses and whistleblowers assisting the government in the war against corruption.

Ramaphosa said South Africa had measures In place to protect whistleblowers. He pointed to extensive legislative protection for whistleblowers, including through the Protected Disclosures Act, Labour Relations Act, Companies Act, Protection against Harassment Act, and the Constitution.

He said: “In addition, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, working with other law-enforcement agencies, administers the Office of Witness Protection to provide support to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses in any judicial proceedings.

“Entering witness protection is voluntary, and neither the SAPS nor the NPA can compel a witness to do so. Should a witness receive threats to their life or feel unsafe, they have to inform investigators and apply for admission to the programme. This successful programme has played a key role in securing successful prosecutions since its inception, particularly with regards to organised crime.

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“It is clear that as the fight against corruption gathers momentum, we need to urgently review our current approach not only to witness protection but also to the broader protection of whistleblowers.  While numerous systems are in place to enable whistleblowers to report anonymously, we need to tighten up existing systems and provide greater support to those who publicly come forward with information.

“As a society, we need to identify where existing laws and policies are inadequate in protecting the livelihoods, reputations and safety of whistleblowers – and work together to address these.  The intent of the criminals who target whistleblowers is not only to silence particular individuals – it is also to send a message to other potential whistleblowers.”

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