Six murder suspects to remain in jail


THERE were two major revelations when six men appeared in court yesterday in connection with the murder of Babita Deokaran, a senior Gauteng civil servant and an anti-corruption whistleblower.

It was revealed in court that Deokaran (53) was not alone in the car when she was shot multiple times. The passenger, who escaped unhurt, has been placed in a secure location and is expected to be a key state witness.

The second revelation was that the 7th suspect was freed because the evidence collected did not link him to the crime. The six, all from KwaZulu-Natal, were charged with murder, attempted murder and possession of unlicensed firearms as well as ammunition. The attempted murder charge was added after it emerged that Deokaran was with someone when she was shot dead. 

Those charged with murder and attempted murder are: Phakamani Hadebe, Zita Hadebe, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Sanele Mbele, Siphiwe Mazibuko and Phakanyiswa Dladla. They were remanded in custody until September 13 when they are expected to apply for bail.

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Deokaran was shot dead on August 23 outside her house in Winchester Hills, Johannesburg.

Police have, in the meantime, disclosed that they expect to make more arrests in connection with the assassination, which has shocked witnesses and whistleblowers across the country.

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.

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“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.

“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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