Babita Deokaran's murder will deter whistleblowers from speaking out, says Goodson

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Former Chief Executive Officer of Trillian Management Consulting Bianca Goodson testifying at the Zondo Commission.
Former Chief Executive Officer of Trillian Management Consulting Bianca Goodson testifying at the Zondo Commission.
Gallo Images/Papi Morake
  • Whistleblower Bianca Goodson testified at the Zondo Commission on the dodgy dealings between Gupta-linked Trillian Management Consulting, Eskom and Transnet.
  • She said the murder of a Gauteng health official would scare whistleblowers from coming forward. 
  • Goodson is a director at The Whistleblower House which aims to assist whistleblowers. 

Whistleblower Bianca Goodson says the execution-style murder of Babita Deokaran, the Gauteng Department of Health's chief director of financial accounting, will potentially scare others from speaking out. 

"People are going to be scared. No one is going to want to do anything.

"The thing is we need whistleblowers, the thing about whistleblowers is that they keep people honest, and we need more of those controls and not just controls in terms of processes and legislation, we need people because people are the ones that look after these controls who speak up when something is wrong," she said. 

Goodson, the former Trillian CEO who blew the lid on dodgy dealings between Gupta-linked Trillian Management Consulting, Eskom and Transnet, added she would not have had the courage to do so if Deokaran was killed before that. 

READ | Gauteng health official who was witness in PPE corruption case killed

"If I hadn't blown the whistle yet and something like this happened, there is no way that I would have blown the whistle because the first thing that would have come to my mind is if people can kill for 100 million, what would they do for a billion. I would never have done it," she said. 

Injuries

On Monday, minutes after dropping her child at school, Deokaran lay seriously injured in her bullet-ridden car outside her complex in a quiet suburban street in Johannesburg.

She was rushed to hospital, where she later succumbed to her injuries

After her death, it emerged she was a witness in a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation into corrupt personal protective equipment (PPE) deals worth R332 million in the department.

Those who knew her said she was constantly trying to speak out against corruption.  

Goodson said there needed to be a shift in how whistleblowers were perceived and protected. 

Editorial | Why did Babita Deokaran have to die?

"There needs to be such a big culture shift in the way that people see whistleblowers. As a society, we don't perceive whistleblowers in the right way," she said, adding:

We don't perceive their risk in the right way, and all these negative consequences that come with blowing the whistle are being taken for granted by the people that benefit the most from people blowing the whistle.

Having gone through the process of blowing the whistle and testifying, she added law enforcement needed to do better. 

"They ask you: 'Do you think you are in danger?' How am I supposed to know that? They are the ones that understand what people do when it comes to white-collar crimes way more than a layperson; they are the ones who are supposed to give me an indication of what my risk is, and then they are the people that are supposed to take the right steps in preventing that.

"In Babita's case, I can imagine that she was with the SIU and somebody asked her if she thought she was threatened, she probably didn't feel threatened, and that's why she didn't have the right protection that she desperately needed.

"It's all well and good that law enforcement agencies need people to come up and make statements to make their case stronger, but they want to get that statistics that they are doing something in favour of the country but at somebody else's expense of losing their life," Goodson added.

READ | 'An assassination': Babita Deokaran was fighting for an 'ethical public service'

Along with Ivan Pillay and Liezl Groenewald, she is a director of The Whistleblower House, a new organisation providing legal, financial and psychological assistance to those exposing wrongdoing. 

"We are only two months old, and our intention is to help people like Babita, and we just didn't start in time to be able to help someone like her. Our plan with The Whistleblower House is to offer that security to people that they need."

She said:

That we can offer financial assistance to people because, typically, whistleblowers end up losing their jobs. In my case, for example, I just needed to be able to survive. We want to be able to give people money for things like groceries just so they won't have to lose their dignity for doing the right thing.

In a statement on Thursday, The Whistleblower House said the government had failed Deokaran and called on it to take action. 

"It is with sadness and grave concern that we learned of the slaying of Babita Deokaran - a person who had the moral courage to stand up for what is right - a person who fought for justice in the face of adversity. She has paid with her life," it added.

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