/ 22 August 2023

Babita Deokaran’s killers plead guilty, sentenced to six to 22 years

Candlelight Vigil For Corruption Fighter Babita Deokaran at the office of the Premier on August 26, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Babita Deokaran, who was the chief director of financial accounting in the Gauteng Department of Health, was shot and killed in what investigators believed was a targeted hit. Deokoran was a whistleblower and key witness in the Special Investigating Unit's key witness against PPE corruption in the Gauteng Department of Health. (Photo by Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi)

Six men arrested for the murder of whistleblower Babita Deokaran pleaded guilty in the Johannesburg high court on Tuesday and were sentenced to up to 22 years in jail.

Deokaran, who was the acting chief director financial accounting officer at the Gauteng department of health, was shot dead outside her home in Winchester Hills, Johannesburg, on 23 August 2021 after she blew the whistle on alleged fraud and corruption at Tembisa Hospital.

Phakamani Hadebe, Zitha Radebe, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Sanele Mbhele, Siphiwe Mazibuko and Phakanyiswa Dladla were arrested on 26 August 2021 in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, and charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

On Tuesday, a plea deal was struck with the prosecution and the six men admitted to killing Deokaran. Dladla also pleaded guilty to two charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Prosecutor Steven Rubin said the men had provided the state with new information “that will assist with the state’s ongoing attempts to bring further persons involved in the murder of the deceased to justice”.

Judge Motsamai Makume sentenced two of the men to 22 years each in jail, three received 15-year sentences and one was jailed for six years.

Deokaran’s killing rekindled calls for, and a commitment from President Cyril Ramaphosa for measures to improve the protection of whistleblowers in the fight against corruption in the country.