Whistleblower Suzanne Daniels is living in fear after exposing Eskom
She has been vilified by colleagues and has been living in fear for her life.
When a car stops next to her at an intersection she freezes - expecting a hail of bullets.
This has become the daily norm for Eskom whistleblower and suspended head of legal Suzanne Daniels, who is weathering the state capture storm following her explosive disclosures in parliament.
But the fear, hate and guilt started long before Daniels was suspended in October last year.
"It began in the months after public protector Thuli Madonsela's report on state capture. Everyone was suspicious of each other at Eskom. It was toxic," the single mother told the Sunday Times this week.
"Matshela [Koko, former acting Eskom CEO] especially was troublesome. We had confrontations almost daily. I remember he once called me an 'incompetent lawyer' and that I didn't know what I was doing."
Last July, Daniels, who has worked for Eskom for 12 years, went on leave and spent time in the US. She began reading reports about alleged Gupta-linked corruption at the utility.
"I thought... it was just not possible that people had influenced things to the degree the reports were outlining. I was inside Eskom, surely I would have known?"But a seed of doubt was planted.
She returned in late July and learnt that her job description had changed. She would be permanent head of legal for the Eskom Group.
In the following months, Daniels investigated allegations of corruption against senior executives, particularly Koko, and later the McKinsey and Trillian contract which earned those companies R1.6-billion.
The more Daniels dug, the more she realised things were not as they should be. Within months, the real battle began.
"Tensions piled up... People started discrediting my work."
In October, she was accused of misconduct in relation to a staff getaway that cost R66,000, for which she had footed the bill. She paid a R9,600 bill for outside legal advice on staff grievances.
Charges against her came after allegations that she had shredded documents concerning former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe's pension payout and legal advice presented to the board on the McKinsey-Trillian saga. The allegations disappeared in mid-December and Daniels was presented with the new charges.
In the months leading up to that, the death threats and intimidation began. Daniels said she received messages warning her to keep quiet or be killed. She upgraded security at her home.
This week, Daniels was told she faced new charges. "I have learned who my friends are, in the harshest way. It has become quite an isolated journey. Fortunately, my family has been there."Daniels said she had been approached by strangers to thank and commend her for her bravery.
"I just think the support has been phenomenal. The biggest driver for me was the safety of my daughter, so once that was taken care of, I could do what I needed to do."
Daniels feels whistleblowers do not have a safe and easy platform in South Africa.
"No. Emphatically, no. Look at Noma Kunene [who made claims of corruption in the Gauteng department of social welfare], who has been missing for two weeks. My heart goes out to her family; I know that fear. To South Africa's credit we do have the legislation in place. It's the implementation that needs to be beefed up.
"If people ask, would I have done it differently, I don't think so. Hopefully I have helped raise the profile of whistleblowers. I hope that is one good contribution I have made. But now I think in that respect my job is not yet over.
"My life has changed forever."
CCMA commissioner Prince Kekana found that Sean Maritz, the acting CEO who suspended Daniels, failed to show any consideration for Daniels’s 13-page representation on why she should not be suspended.
“The proverbial axe hanging over the applicant’s head is more punitive than an actual disciplinary hearing‚” Kekana said.
He also took into consideration the humiliation Daniels endured‚ her reputational damage and impaired dignity owing to her suspension, when he awarded her five months’ remuneration as compensation. He ordered that she be reinstated tomorrow. Just four days after the ruling, however, Eskom levelled new charges against Daniels for the purposes of a disciplinary hearing.