Home South African Threats to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s DG have wider implications, says monitoring group

Threats to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s DG have wider implications, says monitoring group

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The note accompanied by a bullet sent to Presidency Director-General Phindile Baleni is a veiled threat to whistle-blowers and by extension accountability and transparency, said a crime analyst.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s director-general Phindile Baleni. File Photo.

THE NOTE accompanied by a bullet sent to Presidency Director-General Phindile Baleni is a veiled threat to whistle-blowers and by extension accountability and transparency, said a crime analyst.

On Saturday the Presidency issued a statement saying that security agencies had been asked to investigate after Baleni received an anonymous threat aimed at the Presidency’s processing of the findings of the state capture inquiry into allegations of fraud and corruption in the public sector, including organs of state.

Among the threats was a reference to slain whistle-blower and senior official with the Gauteng Department of Health, Babita Deokaran, who was gunned down outside her home in south Joburg.

KwaZulu-Natal based violence monitor Mary de Haas said all the odds were stacked against whistle-blowers and the content of the letter sent to Baleni was further evidence that those who wanted to report wrongdoing were sacrificial lambs.

“Their lives are under threat, they have to go into hiding and there is no money for whistle-blowers.

“The whistle-blowers that I am interacting with are scared they will lose their lives … they are getting trauma counselling and are facing defamation suits because they have spoken out.

“They are seen as a threat and the easiest thing is for them to be taken out,” De Haas said.

She said the letter sent to Baleni would discourage potential whistle-blowers and while the director-general has the full might of security agencies to protect her, other whistle-blowers do not get anything close to that level of protection.

De Haas said more whistle-blowers working in government needed to come forward but there was a threat hanging over public servants.

“There is too much to lose … they could lose their jobs, face malicious charges, defamation suits or face the possibility of being killed if they know too much.

“Police officers who want to blow the whistle on fraud and corruption are also too scared to speak out.”

The statement by the Presidency said that Baleni found, in her letter box at home, an envelope containing a bullet and a letter in which the perpetrator(s) made a threat against her life.

“The director-general reported this matter to security agencies and she is receiving protection to enable her to continue her critical duties as director-general of the Presidency, Cabinet secretary and convener of the Forum of South African Directors-General.

“The fight against crime and corruption will be unaffected by this threat against the director-general,” the Presidency said.

Deokaran, a witness in the personal protection equipment (PPE) scandal, was killed last year. She was shot dead shortly after dropping off her teenage daughter at school. A few days later police arrested six men and the matter is before court.

Deokaran, chief director for financial accounting at the Gauteng Department of Health, was assisting with investigations into a PPE tender scandal that had rocked the department.

She was among several witnesses the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had spoken to in its probe into the R332 million PPE deal.

The mastermind behind the killing has still not been found. Shortly after Deokaran’s murder Neeshan Balton, executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said it was crucial that those who had planned the murder were also arrested.

“It sends a strong message that mafia-like operations aimed at eliminating corruption fighters will not be tolerated. It is however crucial that those who may have ordered Deokaran’s killing – irrespective of who they are or what power they may wield – are brought to book. The kingpins should not be immune to justice,” said Balton.

THE MERCURY

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