Babita Deokaran: One year later, still no justice
Deokaran was gunned down in a hail of bullets on 23 August 2021 outside her home in Winchester Hills, south Johannesburg.
Darshan Deokaran nephew of the late Babita Deokaran, a senior Gauteng health department official who was gunned down outside her home in Johannesburg, 23 August 2022, during a wrath laying ceremony outside her home. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
Tuesday marks exactly a year since the murder of whistleblower Babita Deokaran.
Babita Deokaran’s murder
Deokaran was a high-ranking official in the financial division of the Gauteng Department of Health and a key witness in several corruption investigations by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) related to the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the province.
She was gunned down in a hail of bullets outside her home in Winchester Hills, south Johannesburg on 23 August 2021 in what appears to have been a hit.
Deokaran’s killing prompted calls for the protection of whistleblowers in the fight against corruption in South Africa after it emerged that she had informed her superiors about threats that she received on her life, but nothing was done to protect her.
News24 recently revealed that in the weeks leading up to her death, Deokaran had flagged numerous dodgy payments from Tembisa Hospital totalling R850 million to various contractors.
‘Our entire family is still reeling in pain’
A year since her murder, Deokaran’s family is still waiting for justice while the mastermind behind her assassination has still not been captured.
Her family on Tuesday morning took part in a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the first anniversary of her assassination.
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation along with civil society organisations Defend our Democracy campaign, Active Citizens Movement, Action for Accountability and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) were expected later on Tuesday evening to host a memorial service in her honour.
Speaking to The Citizen outside Deokaran’s home, Bishop Tony Haripersadh said a year since her murder, the family was still battling to come to terms with her killing.
“Our entire family is still reeling with hurt and pain. And we still remember this very day last year when we received the call that our beloved was attacked and assassinated,” Haripersadh said.
‘We still celebrate the life that she lived’
He said Deokaran’s murder has been particularly difficult for her teenage daughter, but the family chooses to honour her mother’s legacy.
“Her daughter, we have been taking care of, it hasn’t been easy for her. We think of Babita very fondly, especially on birthdays and other happy occasions in the family.
“Babita would have been a very integral part of the celebrations of our family. Our memories of her are still very fond, but we still celebrate the life that she lived and the legacy that she leaves behind.”
Six men were arrested on 26 August in Rosettenville for Deokaran’s murder, but Haripersadh said this was not enough because the mastermind is not behind bars.
“Unfortunately and very sadly, the justice system in our country has not yet identified the person that ordered the assasination.
“It is sad that while we as the family are hurting and in pain, the person responsible for her demise goes on living and enjoying their life,” he said.
Earlier this year, Phakamani Hadebe, Zitha Hadebe, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Sanele Mbhele, Simphiwe Mazibuko and Phakanyiswa Dladla were served indictments for murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition related to Deokaran’s killing.
The accused made various confessions and admissions after they were handcuffed, including that they were apparently acting at the behest of former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, but have since claimed they were tortured and were lying.
The group was expected back in court on Wednesday.
Last week, the Gauteng provincial government announced that it was finalising the process of appointing an independent forensic investigator to look into allegations pertaining to the case of Deokaran.
“The Gauteng Provincial Government is treating this matter in a very serious light and, consequently, the Office of the Premier is finalising the process of appointing an Independent Forensic Investigator to investigate the allegations that have surfaced relating to the case,” said Premier David Makhura.
The process of appointing the Independent investigator was expected to be finalised this week.