Ahmed Kathrada Foundation says ‘kingpins’ in Babita Deokaran killing must be brought to book

28 August 2021 - 10:15 By suthentira govender
A candlelight vigil for Babita Deokaran at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg.
A candlelight vigil for Babita Deokaran at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation says the arrest of seven suspects for the murder of Gauteng health official Babita Deokaran sends a strong message “that mafia-like operations aimed at eliminating corruption fighters will not be tolerated”.

Deokaran, who worked as a chief director of financial accounting in the department, was shot several times outside her home south of Johannesburg earlier this week.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) confirmed that Deokaran was a witness in an investigation into PPE purchase irregularities in Gauteng.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has welcomed the arrest of seven suspects in the murder case of Gauteng health official Babita Deokaran
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has welcomed the arrest of seven suspects in the murder case of Gauteng health official Babita Deokaran
Image: Supplied

The foundation’s executive director, Neeshan Balton, said it was “crucial that those who may have ordered Deokaran’s killing — irrespective of who they are or what power they may wield — are brought to book”.

He added: “The kingpins should not be immune to justice. This is essential to reinforce public confidence in the state’s ability to investigate, prosecute and jail all those who are guilty.”

Balton said Deokaran’s killing had struck a raw nerve with the public. “There’s been an outpouring of anger, and renewed concern about the safety of honest public servants and whistle-blowers.

“We must however, ask about all the other cases of slain whistle-blowers. Many of these have not received sufficient public attention. How many cases have simply ‘faded away’ with families left without any justice?”

Balton said a candlelight vigil for Deokaran on Thursday also remembered other murdered corruption fighters, including Jimmy Mohlala, Moss Phakoe, Noby Ngombane, Ronald Mani, Timson Tshililo, Philemon Ngwenya and Teboho Makhoa.

“We must begin to put pressure on law enforcement to provide answers about how many of these cases are successfully investigated, or are they simply being filed away or ‘disappeared’.”

Neeshan Balton is head of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
Neeshan Balton is head of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
Image: Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

Balton believes there is a need for greater political will “to ensure policy improvements around whistle-blower protection, but to also deal with the root causes of corruption and capture”. 

“We were pleased that Gauteng premier David Makhura could join us for Deokaran’s vigil, and that he has been vocal on the need for justice and accountability.

“However, nationally, provincially and locally, there must be greater effort put into dealing with systemic issues well before we get to a point where a whistle-blower comes under threat.

“The transparency, accountability and oversight measures around public procurement must be in place in the first instance to limit the scope for corruption,” he said.

Balton also called for support and protection of those fighting corruption.

“The arrests in the Deokaran case, as important as it may be, will not bring back the mother, daughter, colleague and honest public servant that she was.

“No other family should have to go through what the Deokaran, Makhoa, Mohlala or Ngombane families — as well as many others — have had to endure.”

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