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By Sydney Majoko

Writer


Snitches get stitches, but thanks to the brave whistleblowers

Criminals used the phrase to deter whistleblowers from talking to police, threatening injury or death if they report the criminal deeds.


Snitches get stitches and end up in ditches” is a phrase that has been made popular by rap artists as they give expression to popular street culture.

Criminals used the phrase to deter witnesses from talking to police, threatening injury or death if they report the criminal deeds.

SA is in the grip of that same fear as the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture dominated the headlines last week. Two witnesses, Johan van Loggerenberg and Themba Maseko, had very suspicious breaches of their
personal spaces following the report.

Both Van Loggerenberg and Maseko had their homes broken into, just days after the release of the Zondo report in which they both expose how state funds were looted. Van Loggerenberg witnessed how the South African Revenue Service was hollowed out under Tom Moyane and Maseko had to be fired as head of the Government Communications and Information System.

The report concludes that state capture would never have reached the levels it did had Maseko not been fired. Whistle-blowers at Eskom, SAA, Prasa and many other state institutions are also what literally stood between the life and death of those institutions and, sadly, some whistle-blowers have paid the ultimate price for their willingness to stop state capture.

Some, like Cynthia Stimpel, not only became outcasts, they became unemployable. How can the fear that the bad guys are trying to instil in people like Maseko ever be stopped from taking root? How can the state convince
people who want to continue to do good that they can do exactly that without fearing they will pay with their lives or livelihoods?

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There has been numerous calls for government to protect whistle-blowers but given the magnitude of corruption in SA, it is almost impossible to provide physical protection to the many whistle-blowers who come forward.

The most sustainable way to protect whistleblowers is to ensure that in those cases that prominent whistle-blowers, like Van Loggerenberg and Maseko, have come forward, that for the period that they are deemed to be under
threat, physical (bodyguards) protection is temporarily. But, most importantly, those implicated in the corruption must be successfully prosecuted and put behind bars.

“Snitches get stitches” generates fear and the guilty thrive on that fear. Both Van Loggerenberg and Maseko have reported that they were not harmed in the two instances that their personal space was violated, but those behind the intimidation know other whistle-blowers are watching and they might run scared after seeing what happens to prominent whistle-blowers.

This country has to consciously move away from making heroes out of slain whistle-blowers like Babita Deokaran and ANC Youth leader Sandile Magaqa. They are better alive for their families and the country than dead from exposing the truth.

It perpetuates the “snitches get stitches” fear when whistle-blowers are assassinated. The fear has to be reversed, the criminals must be on the receiving end of the fear of being locked up.

Van Loggerenberg, Maseko, Stimpel and many others are the reason SA survived state capture. They need to know their sacrifices were worth it.