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Whistle-blower says he had to leave SA for his safety, feared he would be ’silenced’

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Author and whistle-blower Athol Williams said he had to leave South Africa out of concerns for his safety.

Athol Williams appeared before the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture. File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

AUTHOR, speaker, former University of Cape Town Professor and whistle-blower Athol Williams said he had to leave South Africa for his safety.

“If I remained at home there was a good chance I’d be silenced, so I left, but I will continue advocating for truth and furthering the cause of justice no matter how far from home I am,” Williams said.

“I have little left to lose now other than the love of a few. But I will not lose my resolve to resist the capture of South Africa. I look forward to the day, soon, when I can return home to continue our collective effort to realise the promise of our democracy.”

Williams said he left the country on November 1.

In his statement, he describes hugging every member of his immediate family in tears before boarding his flight.

He said he was not leaving the country to go on vacation or a business trip, but was leaving for his safety.

“Concern for my safety had been growing since I blew the whistle on companies and individuals involved in state capture and testified before the Zondo Commission,” he continued.

“Rather than diminish after I testified, these concerns increased while the prospect of prosecutions grew. After Babita Deokaran was assassinated, concerns spiked, because it showed that authorities were choosing not to proactively protect whistle-blowers.”

Senior Gauteng Health official and corruption whistle-blower Deokaran – who was gunned down outside her Winchester Hills home – was a key whistle-blower in an investigation into dodgy personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts in Gauteng.

Deokaran was shot several times outside her Joburg-south, Mondeor, home after dropping off her child at school on August 23.

In his statement on Sunday, Williams said that he decided to leave after he received “warnings from trusted allies and a civil society organisation about a co-ordinated effort against” him.

“We have a very dangerous situation in South Africa where we accept the narrative that only a few bad apples are involved in state capture,” he said. “The corrupted web stretches across our society and needs bold action to clear this out. It starts with each of us. Challenge those around you to act with conscience and with courage.”

On June 1, UCT denied claims by Williams that the institution’s ombudsman offered him hush money to stop “raising concerns about their dealings with state capture companies”.

“Mr Williams consistently claims UCT does not want to engage him and made claims that he was ’receiving no help’ and then ’offered money by UCT’. UCT totally rejects these distortions of fact and deny these claims,” UCT said in a statement.

It started on Tuesday morning, when Williams took to social media claiming the ombudsman offered him “hush money”.

“Read this slowly … the University of Cape Town ombudsman offered me hush money. We have sunk so low in SA. Anyone with a platform willing to raise the alarm?” he wrote on Twitter.

Responding to a Tweet asking what the money was for, Williams said: “To stop raising concerns about their dealings with state capture companies”.

In the statement, UCT said it respected and applauded Williams for his efforts to blow the whistle on fraud and corruption.

The university said it fully supported the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and the efforts aimed to understanding and remediating state capture and corruption.

On April 1, Independent Media reported that Williams accused UCT of launching a public attack on him after he allegedly rejected their cash offer.

He said he believed the money was to make up for not being offered paid leave to complete a 700-page affidavit for the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

In response to the claim, the university said it made a process available for Williams to engage with them to try to resolve various issues.

In March, Williams, a former senior lecturer at UCT’s Graduate School of Business, testified at the Zondo Commission on information relating to the South African Revenue Service and his former job at management consultancy firm Bain.

Williams told the commission that the firm was working with former president Jacob Zuma for financial gain through state capture.

He said that UCT had not supported him when he blew the whistle and stepped forward.

Williams also testified that the university continued to do business with companies involved in state capture.

At the time, UCT released a statement in response to Williams’ testimony, denying his claims.

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