EDITORIAL | Why did Babita Deokaran have to die?

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Babita Deokaran, Gauteng Department of Health chief director of financial accounting, was gunned down outside her Johannesburg home.
Babita Deokaran, Gauteng Department of Health chief director of financial accounting, was gunned down outside her Johannesburg home.
PHOTO: Facebook

The assassination of a key whistleblower comes at a critical time for fighting corruption and state capture. The authorities simply have to protect witnesses better, says News24.

The brutal assassination of senior Gauteng civil servant Babita Deokaran on Monday has raised the spectre of whistleblowers and witnesses being eliminated as the state finally starts to prosecute corruption after a decade of shameless looting.

Deokaran's tragic death is as big a red flag as you will ever get.

Here is a senior civil servant, the acting chief financial officer of the Gauteng Department of Health, being murdered before she could testify against corrupt businesspeople, politicians and civil servants who have looted millions from the department.

It is not hard to connect the dots. Gauteng Premier David Makhura has effectively already confirmed that Deokaran's death was as a result of her anti-corruption battle. "We will not be cowed down by criminal gangs who want to loot state resources. We are taking steps to protect officials who have become targets of threats, intimidation and wanton murder," the premier said.

The Hawks should leave no stone unturned in their search for her killers. They should be brought to book swiftly and prosecuted efficiently to show the criminal syndicates running South Africa's tender system that they will not get away with murder.

The Special Investigating Unit 

Deokaran was one of the Special Investigating Unit's key witnesses in their investigation into the more than R300 million spent on personal protective equipment (PPE) by the Gauteng health department.

The SIU has been at the forefront of recouping money lost through corrupt tenders over the past decade and should persist in its valiant efforts.

Deokaran's murder comes at a time when the National Prosecuting Authority and its Investigating Directorate are finally initiating prosecutions against state capturers who got away with industrial-scale looting during the Zuma years.

They include Brian Hlongwa, the former Gauteng Health MEC implicated in a R1.2-billion tender corruption case dating back to 2007. Hlongwa is yet to face arrest, but his alleged accomplices were charged last year.

To succeed in their attempts to convict the looters, the SIU, Hawks and NPA will simply need to beef up their protection of critical witnesses like Deokaran, without whom they cannot succeed.

- If you have information that can help solve this case, email our investigative journalists at tips@24.com

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