It’s unacceptable that whistleblowers aren’t protected in SA, says Amnesty International
The organisation says whistleblowers are risking their lives in order to protect the people of South Africa and combat corruption.
Former partner at BAIN, Atholl Williams gives SARS related evidence at the State Capture Commission in Braamfontein for the second day, 24 March 2021. Picture: Neil McCartney
Amnesty International South Africa on Monday said it was concerned about the protection of whistleblowers after author, speaker and whistleblower, Athol Williams, said he was forced to leave the country last week because he feared for his life.
Williams, who testified at the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, on Sunday released a statement in which he said the government had failed to provide him with protection after receiving warnings from trusted allies and a civil society organisation about threats on his life.
He said concerns about his safety spiked after Babita Deokaran was gunned down in August outside her home in Johannesburg, ostensibly for blowing the whistle on Gauteng’s dubious personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders.
Williams said Deokaran’s murder showed that authorities were choosing not to proactively protect whistleblowers.
“Knowing that my government offers me no protection after I’ve acted in the public interest is a disturbing reality. I implicated 39 parties in my testimony so threats could come from many places,” he said in the statement.
‘Whistleblowers treated with disdain’
Amnesty International South Africa said it was unacceptable that whistleblowers were being treated with disdain by the government.
The organisation said whistleblowers were risking their lives in order to protect the people of South Africa and combat corruption.
“We have already seen how brave people like Babita Deokaran were murdered for doing the right thing because they were not properly protected. The state is obliged to provide whistleblowers with protection,” Amnesty International SA’s executive director, Shenilla Mohamed.
Mohamed said whistleblowers were critical to any democracy because they are a warning sign that lets everyone know, including authorities, that something is going wrong.
“They expose acts of criminality and abuse by governments, corporations, organisations and individuals. Without whistleblowers, evidence of large-scale human rights violations would never surface,” she said.
Ramaphosa on whistleblowers
After Deokaran’s murder in August, President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed the importance of whistleblowers in the protection of the country’s democracy.
Ramaphosa called for the protection of whistleblowers, saying they were the greatest weapons South Africa had in the fight against the abuse of power and the theft of public resources.
“We need to give whistleblowers better protection, both in law and in practice. Without whistleblowers, we will not be able to tackle corruption effectively,” Ramaphosa said.
He was speaking during his appearance at the state capture commission in August.