Wierzycka urges SA to rally behind whistleblowers

Cape Town - Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka has called on South Africans to openly show their support for whistleblowers like Bianca Goodson, saying they run great personal risks.

“South Africans must rally behind these people and make them feel like heroes,” Wierzycka told Fin24 on Tuesday evening. 

“They (whistleblowers) need to see the validation. Even if it is only supportive tweets, something as stupid as saying ‘Bianca you are a hero’. It’s these little things that matter,” she said.  

Wierzycka, the founder and head of fintech firm Sygnia, has offered Goodson a job after she parted ways with business accounting software company Sage following revelations on the controversial consulting firm Trillian Management. 

Last week Goodson, who served as the CEO of the Gupta-linked firm Trillian Management Consulting for a few months in early 2015, leaked a trove of documents from her time at Trillian to the website of the Platform for the Protection of Whistleblowers in Africa, or Pplaaf.

Trillian has denied the leaked documents show evidence of corruption. 

Wierzycka said 99.9% of people “turn a blind eye and walk away” when they came across what may be instances of corruption. 

“She (Goodson) is a little person, she comes from a modest background, she has no resources to protect herself, she is utterly vulnerable. She sits in an office in Trillian and gets exposed to all this corruption,“ she said. 

But instead of walking away, Wierzycka said that due to Goodson's "incredibly strong moral compass” and “incredible level of bravery” she chose to go public with what she had seen.

Not walking away

“It takes a very special person to say … I am not walking away, I am going to do something about it at a great personal cost to myself. (There is) legal risk, personal risk, the risk of losing a job.”

Wierzycka said that “the least” corporate SA could do was to protect whistleblowers. 

As investigate reporting outfit Scorpio first reported earlier on Tuesday, Goodson offered to resign from Sage when she went public with her trove of documents.

Her offer was accepted. 

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for Sage said : “We have a duty of care for all colleagues so do not comment on individual cases. We are currently reviewing it internally.”

Wierzycka climbed into Sage and said they should be criticised for simply accepting Goodson's resignation so easily. 

“To turn around and take a person like that who has done all of this – and she has done it for the country, not for personal gain – and kick her in the backside and say ‘not only don’t we have your back but cheers’ takes a special kind of cowardice,” she said. 

Wierzycka said that in addition to Goodson, South Africans should be grateful to the person who leaked the Gupta emails, as well as the person who leaked the draft of KPMG SA's report into the so-called 'rogue unit' at the SA Revenue Service. 

"Remember the SARS report was never meant to be made public. We have a whistleblower - I prefer the term hero - to thank for that," she said. 

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