Seven men from KZN were arrested on Friday 27 August in connection with the meticulously plotted assassination of Gauteng Health whistleblower Babita Deokaran earlier that week, writes MedicalBrief. Charges against one were provisionally withdrawn pending further investigation.
The men, aged between 24 and 31, appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Monday 20 August on charges of murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition and were remanded in custody. They are: Nhlangano Ndlovu, Siphakanyiswa Dladla, Zitha Radebe, Simphiwe Mazibuko, Sanele Mbele and Phakamani Radebe.
The group has also been charged with attempted murder in relation to the domestic worker. A bail hearing will be heard on Monday, 13 September in the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court.
Deokaran was an important whistleblower in Gauteng’s personal protective equipment (PPE) scandal and was gunned down outside her complex in Mondeor, south of Johannesburg on 23 August. Gauteng premier David Makhura said that her murder and those facing charges involving R332m in PPE tender fraud, were linked
The men had apparently stalked her for more than a month and been sent to Gauteng specifically to kill her, reports Sunday Times Daily. Gauteng Hawks spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mulamu confirmed that two cars and two pistols, one licensed and one not, were recovered during the arrests.
The alleged killers were traced by a maze of CCTV cameras that pieced together their getaway route. The suspects went to great lengths to cover their tracks, apparently using remote tech to disable cameras at a petrol station near the site of the shooting, which could have identified them or their vehicle. Investigators were also looking into the apparent remote monitoring of Deokaran's cellphones, tablet and computer.
The Sunday Times claims that it has learnt from two separate sources with knowledge of the investigation that the killers were paid R2.8m for the hit. "In total we have heard that nearly R4m was put aside for the murder," said one of the sources.
A report in The Citizen said that a senior official of the ANC "might possibly be the alleged mastermind behind the murder" of Deokaran, and that the Hawks had identified the senior ANC official — who held occupied top positions within government — as “a person of interest” who allegedly ordered the murder.
According to PoliticsWeb, the SIU issued a statement saying it had put in place measures to ensure safety of witnesses and whistleblowers.
"Furthermore, the SIU encourage 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.
"Internally, the SIU is assessing and considering further measures that will be put in place to secure the SIU investigators over and above the measures that are already in place with the SAPS.
"The murder of Babita Deokaran should not deter South Africans and public servants from reporting allegations of corruption, malpractice, greed and maladministration in the affairs 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 public purse serves the interest of the public."
In another article in PoliticsWeb, Solly Msimanga, the DA's Gauteng leader, said the "failure of the South African Police Service to protect key whistle-blower Babita Deokaran in the PPE scandal is a clear indictment on the Gauteng government".
"Babita was brave enough and courageous enough to come forward with information on corruption in the PPE tenders. Instead, she was rewarded with a hail of bullets."
Msimanga said he had written to the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation to assure them "that we will continue to put pressure on the provincial government to release the Special Investigating Unitʼs SIU reports on the various investigations they have undertaken in the province, including that of the procurement of PPE".
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