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SIU: Murder of Babita Deokaran should not deter whistleblowers

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has said that the murder of Babita Deokaran should not deter public servants and South Africans from coming forward to blow the whistle on corruption in government departments, municipalities and state owned entities(SOEs).

Gauteng Department of Health official Deokaran was fatally gunned on Monday, 23 August 2021. Deokaran was one of the SIU’s witnesses in the R300 million personal protective equipment (PPE) tender fraud probe in the provincial health department she served in as an acting chief financial officer.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) announced on Friday that seven suspects linked to Deokaran have been arrested.

SAPS spokesperson, Colonel Brenda Muridili said during the arrests of the suspects at their hideouts in Johannesburg the police recovered two firearms and two vehicles.

The SIU said on Friday that it welcomes the arrest of the suspects because it “brings us closer to finding out the motive behind her murder”.

The unit said it is concerned about the safety of whistleblowers, witnesses and that of its investigators and that measures have been put in place to ensure their safety.

“The SIU encourages witnesses to come forward and inform SIU investigators should they feel unsafe or should there be any threat to them so that steps can be taken to protect them, including invoking the Witness Protection Programme that government has in place.

“The murder of Ms Deokaran should not deter South Africans and public servants from reporting allegations of corruption, malpractice, greed and maladministration in the affairs of government departments, municipalities and state owned entities.

“It is through the reporting of procurement irregularities and corruption in the public sector that we can protect the public purse and ensure that the public purse serves the interest of the public,” the SIU said.

53-year-old Deokaran was gunned down in Winchester Hills as she was coming back from dropping off her child at school. She later succumbed to her injuries in hospital.

Muridili said there is a possibility that more charges could be added to the charge of murder when the suspects appear in court soon.

SAPS national Commissioner, General Khehla Sitole has welcomed the arrest of the seven suspects linked to Deokaran’s murder.

“I am confident that the Hawks will work tirelessly to ensure that justice is served,” Sitole said.

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