‘Masterminds behind Deokaran’s murder must be brought to book’ – Phaahla
The six men pleaded guilty to Deokaran’s murder and were sentenced to between six and 22 years in prison in a plea sentence agreement.
Deokaran was shot several times outside her complex in the south of Johannesburg in August 2021. Photo: Facebook/Justice For Babita Deokaran
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said authorities must stop at nothing to bring the masterminds behind the murder of Babita Deokaran to book.
Phakamani Hadebe, Zitha Radebe, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Sanele Mbhele, Siphiwe Mazibuko and Siphakanyiswa Dladla appeared in the high court in Johannesburg on Tuesday before Judge Motsamai Makume.
They pleaded guilty to Deokaran’s murder and were sentenced to between six and 22 years in prison in a plea sentence agreement in terms of section 105A(1) of the criminal procedure act 51 of 1977 before trial.
All accused were convicted of the murder of Deokoran under the principle of ‘dolus eventualis’ and conceded that they foresaw the possibility that their actions could lead to the death of Deokoran or any other person, but reconciled themselves with such possibility when they continued to act in furtherance of a common purpose to execute the hatched plan to kill Deokoran.
Phaahla’s spokesperson Foster Mohale said the minister welcomed the guilty plea and sentencing of the six men, but said the case was far from over.
“Minister Phaahla believes this was a heinous crime committed in an attempt to cover for the deeds of corruption, and the guilty plea is not sufficient enough, hence he calls upon the accused to never take their secret to the grave but disclose fully those who were involved and behind this dastardly deed of criminality.
“The plea bargain must never be the end of the case, we expect the criminal justice authorities to stop at nothing until the masterminds are brought to book,” Mohale said.
Mohale said corruption was one of the greatest obstacles to the country’s growth and development, and has a negative effect on the state’s ability to provide quality health services
“The health sector and government as a whole are committed to eradicate the scourge of corruption once and for all, and we have an even greater responsibility in honour of the life and sacrifices of Ms Babita Deokoran,” Mohale said.
Meanwhile, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has committed to fighting for justice, starting with pursuing ‘persons of interest’ whose information has been provided by the convicted murderers.
NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane told the media the state believes the mastermind of the assassination is still at large though they are not known to the state or the accused before the court.
“Investigations will be ongoing because we believe that justice can only be served once we get to the bottom of Babita losing her life for being a whistle-blower against corruption.
The information provided to the Saps will assist to unravel the real mastermind behind the murder as further intensive investigations continue on the matter to ensure that justice is not only done but manifestly seen to be done,” Mjonondwane said.
Problems at work
During court proceedings, state prosecutor Steven Rubin read out the plea agreement and alluded to Deokaran’s assassination being well planned early in the month before the fateful day, with instruction provided by Khanyisani Mpungose to accused 1, Phakamani Hadebe.
Mpungose advised him that Deokaran was “a problem” and “created problems at work” and that she had to be “dealt with”.
Images of her place of residence as well as those of her vehicle were sent to Mpungose by Hadebe.
Hadebe subsequently recruited the remaining accused before court and, ultimately, they admitted that, together with Mpungose and another man whose identity is unknown to them planned the hit.
The accused added that they were driving in two separate vehicles that followed Deokoran to Columbine Square and thereafter to her home.
Along the way, she stopped to pick up her domestic helper and as she brought her car to a halt, one of their vehicles stopped alongside hers and Mpungose and the unknown male, fired several shots towards Deokoran’s car. Thereafter, both vehicles fled the scene.
Hero of the nation
Reading the agreement, Reuben said murder is a serious offence which can never be downplayed.
“The deceased, having chosen to highlight irregularities in the spending in the department of health, has been hailed as the hero of the nation.
Rubin said the community has risen in solidarity after Deokaran’s death.
“The community has been calling for accountability in respect of government expenditure and ‘state capture.’ The murder of the deceased is seen as a step backwards in the quest for accountability.
“A strong message is required to be sent that attempts to silence law-abiding citizens such as the deceased will not be tolerated by the courts,” Rubin said.
Deokaran was shot several times outside her complex in the south of Johannesburg in August 2021, after flagging corruption in the Gauteng health department’s procurement of Covid personal protective equipment (PPE) to the value of R332 million.
The 53-year-old was the acting chief financial officer at the Gauteng Department of Health and was shot shortly after dropping her child at school in what is believed to be a hit.
Deokaran’s killing prompted calls for the protection of whistle-blowers 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.