Author, speaker and whistleblower Athol Williams says he was forced to leave South Africa because he felt unsafe after testifying before at the Zondo Commission Inquiry into State Capture.
In a statement released on Sunday, Williams says he was in tears when he boarded a plane on 1 November.
“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 whistleblowers.”
Williams says the government has not offered him any protection after he acted in the public’s interest.
“I implicated 39 parties in my testimony so threats could come from many places. After receiving warnings from trusted allies and a civil society organisation about a coordinated effort against me, I took the sad step to leave home, again without any help.”
The poet gave testimony to the state capture commission regarding evidence related to the South African Revenue Services (Sars). He says he has faced alienation and abandonment from South African companies ever since.
Williams was an ethical leadership expert at the University of Cape Town where he was forced to resign after his testimony.
“I’ve lost all sources of income and had to sell belongings to meet my obligations which include funding social projects like Read to Rise which works with 20,000 children annually. I have suffered severe damage to my health and my reputation.
“Now I have lost my home, being forced out of the very country I acted to defend. I feel profound sadness that leaves me in tears. I shake my head asking: ‘how did it come to this?’ It’s a tragedy that those who choose to do the right thing have their lives shattered while everyone looks on.”
“We all need to act to fix this tragedy.”
Williams says corporate South Africa, government from local and national have let whistleblowers, witnesses and the public down.
“We are losing our battle against corruption because our government is allowing it, if not participating in it. We are losing our battle against corporate corruption because corporate boards and CEOs are allowing it, if not participating in it. We are losing our battle against the moral degeneration of our society because South Africans are choosing to be silent when we should be speaking up,” he said.
The whistleblower says he understands the silence because of incidences such as Babita Deokaran who was gunned down outside her home in Mondeor, south Johannesburg, in August.
She was a high-ranking official with the Gauteng department of health, and was a witness in various graft probes.
“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. 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,” Williams concluded.
Compiled by Sandisiwe Mbhele.