Protecting whistle-blowers 'critical' in corruption fight, says Zondo after witness breaks down at commission

Former Trillian Management Consulting CEO Bianca Goodson was in tears as she explained how being a state capture whistle-blower had ruined her life

04 March 2021 - 18:00
By mawande amashabalala AND Mawande AmaShabalala
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo. File photo
Image: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo. File photo

The state capture inquiry chairperson, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, is worried that there is no adequate cushioning of whistle-blowers against ruined livelihoods and other traumas.

Zondo expressed his concern on Thursday during the closing of the testimony of former Trillian Management Consulting CEO, Bianca Goodson. This after Goodson broke down in tears as she explained how being a state capture whistle-blower had ruined her life.

Goodson said she left Trillian after her discovery of the company's involvement in unorthodox business practices that aided the state capture project. She left her job at the company only after three months, something that had not happened before in her career.

“I never went back to Trillian, I never waited for them to push me out. I resigned and I walked away,” a teary Goodson said. “And as soon as I could, I helped law-enforcement agencies. The first person I approached was the public protector. After that it was the parliamentary inquiry. I have become a walking evidence docket ever since blowing the whistle. And my life has been ruined.”

Zondo tried to comfort her by stating his concern that whistle-blowers in SA were left exposed after blowing the whistle. Should this be allowed to persist, said the judge, SA may kiss the fight against corruption goodbye.

“I am very interested in looking at adequacy or otherwise of protection of whistle-blowers in SA,” said Zondo.

“And it seems to me that providing a lot of protection to whistle-blowers is a critical pillar to meaningful fight against corruption. If people who want to engage in corruption know that there is good chance that somebody might blow the whistle, that does contribute to deterrence,” he added.

Zondo continued: “So the country needs to have a good and a strong regime of protection of whistle-blowers. The next thing you want is that those who engage in corruption must know that when the whistle has been blown, the law-enforcement agencies have a good chance of doing an investigation and catching them, and the third thing is that there will be prosecutions and people sent to jail.

“If any of these pillar is weak, it compromises the fight against corruption.”

Had Zondo's ideal world been in place when Goodson blew the whistle, she said, “my life would be very different right now”.