Whistleblowers back recommendations made by Zondo Commission around their protection

Justice Raymond Zondo. (File photo by Veli Nhlapo/Sowetan/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
Justice Raymond Zondo. (File photo by Veli Nhlapo/Sowetan/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
  • Whistleblowers have endorsed recommendations made by the State Capture Inquiry aimed at strengthening the protection of those who lift the lid on corruption and wrongdoing.
  • They have also called for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency. 
  • They said the agency should also have a division for whistleblowers which provides legal protection and social-psychological resources. 

Whistleblowers have backed the State Capture Inquiry recommendation for establishing an anti-corruption agency, adding that it should house a division for whistleblowers to provide legal protection, social-psychological and health resources.

During a media briefing on Friday, Whistleblowers for Change - which included several people who testified before the State Capture Inquiry - explained that the retaliatory action taken against those who blew the whistle on corruption took many forms, including:

  • The weaponisation of disciplinary procedures;
  • Legal suits aimed at harassing, impoverishing and damaging the reputations of honest employees who blow the whistle on malfeasance; and
  • Murder.

"In the wake of our disclosures of wrongdoing on the part of public officials, corrupted police officers and/or private sector role-players retaliatory actions have wrecked the lives of whistleblowers," Whistleblowers for Change said.

"Most alarming has been the violations of constitutional rights of citizens by law enforcement officers."

"In ways reminiscent of the dark days of apartheid, they have violated the constitutional rights of citizens that they should be protecting."

"At local government level, whistleblowers have faced arrest on trumped-up charges and attempted assassinations."

"Others have had to flee the country or move around in secret to safe houses in fear of their lives. In other cases, they have resulted in financial loss to private sector entities (such as retirement funds) and/or to individuals including employees of public and/or private sector bodies, members and beneficiaries of retirement funds and others."

READ | State capture report recommends rewarding whistleblowers - but will this work? Activists have their say

Because of the persecution, Whistleblowers for Change backed recommendations to strengthen the legal protection and institutional framework for whistleblowers and the fight against corruption in our country.

They endorsed the recommendation for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency and called for the agency to be independent and partial only to its mandate and subjected only to the law and the Constitution.

Whistleblowers for Change added that the agency should be named the Office of the Whistleblower, which should be adequately resourced with the necessary skill to ensure legal protection and social-psychological and health resources for whistleblowers.

Furthermore, the whistleblowers said laws should criminalise the retaliatory actions described in the Protected Disclosures Act.

"We deplore the fact that the present system offers no inducement to the whistleblower to break cover."

The group also called for reforms to the Protected Disclosures Act, including:

  • To introduce the need to compensate whistleblowers for the harm done to them, such as loss of livelihoods, income, life savings and pensions, reputations etc.;
  • To introduce an expanded list of persons to whom a whistleblower contemplating making protected disclosures may go;
  • Persons to whom such disclosures are made must be given the legal obligation to ensure confidentiality and adequate protection against harm for the whistleblower; and
  • To bring South African legislation in line with article 32 (2) of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption which suggests that all signatory states, such as South Africa, provide for establishing procedures for the physical protection of such persons, such as to the extent necessary and feasible, relocating them and permitting them, where appropriate, non-disclosure or limitations on the disclosure of information concerning the identity or whereabouts of such persons.

Whistleblowers for Change also endorsed a system of monetary awards to effectively assist those who made protected disclosures to recoup financial losses suffered due to their principled stand.

However, Whistle Blowers for Change also said: "We are loathed to support a system that encourages bounty hunting such as the American system of incentivised disclosures based on a percentage of recouped funds after successful prosecutions.

"We support a system of an award based on the quantification of damages and losses suffered and or incurred, and as such, we are more inclined towards the European whistleblower provisions that lean in this direction."

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