Editorial: Speaking truth to power

Last week the Mail & Guardian celebrated the sterling work of 50 women who consistently strive to ensure that South Africa is a place we all want to live in. They include captains of industry, community builders, farmers, healthcare workers and activists. 

Their efforts are the reason the sun truly rises for those around them. Many, many women in our country wake up every day, no matter their circumstances, and go to work to make a difference. So many of these stories are not told. 

Unfortunately we must also acknowledge how we have consistently failed them. Babita Deokaran was killed for the “crime” of working towards an ethical civil service by being prepared to speak out against corruption in the Gauteng health department. 

Deokaran was fatally shot outside her home in Johannesburg on 23 August. She was a witness in an investigation into alleged fraud relating to a R300-million tender for personal protective equipment. 

Deokaran met an untimely and unnecessary death because of failures in how we protect whistleblowers. Just in the past few months under covid there have been many whistleblowers like her and unveiled the corruption in government. 

A number of inquiries and prosecutions, such as the recent Digital Vibes saga and the Zondo commission investigating state capture, would never have seen the light of day had it not been for the valiant efforts of a few people who stood firm and told the truth.

In a rather noncommittal statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that he has had the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU’s) report on the Digital Vibes scandal for two months but said he had given those implicated an opportunity to object to its release or parts of it in the interest of “fairness”.

The report — which has now been sent to the National Prosecuting Authority for it to decide whether charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering will be made — has already been leaked to the media and the SIU found that former health minister Zweli Mkhize “may have committed actions of criminality” and recommended that his family should repay R4-million.

South Africans, who have much to lose, go against what is safe and profitable to make this country a fair and equitable place. They are the reason the sun rises every morning and our country has not fallen off the cliff. 

In the midst of the country’s dire economic situation and corruption, the sun still rises. We salute all those working tirelessly to make this country work. 

If only our leaders would catch up.

Keep the powerful accountable

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