Startling allegations have emerged surrounding the murder of Gauteng health department official Babita Deokaran following the arrest of seven suspects on Thursday.
It is alleged the hitmen were each paid a sum of R400,000, R2.8 million in total, to kill Deokaran.
The question now is: who was behind it all?
Deokaran was one of the Special Investigative Unit’s (SIU’s) witnesses in multimillion-rand protective personal equipment (PPE) tender fraud investigations.
Family spokesperson and brother-in-law Tony Haripersadh said the murder showed the lengths some people were willing to go in order to silence Deokaran.
“If you look at the manner in which the payments were made… that is a lot of money and it shows the extent to which they wanted to get her out at all cost,” said Haripersadh.
He said the family was grateful for the swift reaction by the police in apprehending the suspects but lamented that Deokaran’s protection should have been prioritised.
“We are disappointed because this is not a thing that happened in a month or a couple of weeks ago. This has been a thing for the past few years, and if you trace what happened from the time she exposed corruption many months ago.
“She had exposed this [corruption] and surely at that time they should have realised that Babita’s life needs to be protected.”
Haripersadh said Deokaran had not made the family aware of any death threats as she did not want to worry them. He went as far as revealing that, at some point, she was suspended from work for a period of six months, unbeknown to the family.
“Little did we know she was suspended for six months and she kept this away from the family because she did not want to let us feel her pain, but after she was reinstated.
“In one of the family chat groups where we share information she revealed that she had been suspended for six months because she refused to toe the line and get involved in corruption,” explained Haripersadh.
“She did not make us aware of the fact that she received any direct threats, but I think that some others in the family have some information that she texted them and they have already let the police aware of it.”
He said the family was not informed that the seven suspects had been arrested on Thursday as they only saw it on TV.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has commended the police for the breakthrough in the case and promised to act on corrupt officials.
“The corrupt elements in government who collude with rogue business to rig tenders have nowhere to hide. Looters shall not win. We will not retreat,” said Makhura.
Makhura on Thursday night joined civil society organisations for a candle-lighting ceremony which coincided with Deokaran’s funeral held in KwaZulu-Natal on the same day.
It is alleged that the hitman who killed Deokaran was brought in from another province.
She was killed on Monday in front of her home in Mondeor, south Johannesburg, after she dropped off her child at school.