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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


Whistle-blower pays ultimate price as killers roam free

A year after the murder of Eric Phenya, who exposed corruption in a government tender, his killers are still at large.


Being a whistle-blower comes with a substantial cost in South Africa: businessman Eric Phenya paid with his life last year when he tried to expose tender fraud at the department of home affairs – and his killers are still on the run.

Phenya died in a hail of bullets on 17 October last year while driving home after dropping his daughter at school – three weeks after he laid charges against officials, alleging corruption in a multimillion-rand tender.

To date, nobody has been brought to book with authorities dragging their heels – a move his wife Johanna calls “justice denied”.

“The police have pictures of suspects and phone numbers, the only thing remaining is proper investigation and arrest.

Justice denied

“Justice is not being delayed, it is denied,” Phenya said.

“I get a sense that the police – or at least some of them – work with the killers,” she said.

“A year later, I feel more lost and confused. Early on, I thought there will be a breakthrough, but a year later I am losing hope.”

Her husband allegedly provided explosive information to the police that could have been linked to his assassination.

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“This is a tragic case about a father, husband and businessman assassinated for doing the right thing,” said forensic investigator Chad Thomas, who acts for the Phenya family.

“This is not just about the whistle being blown on irregularities around a tender at home affairs, but also relates to information regarding organised crime syndicates operating within the department, allegedly linked to the unlawful issuing of identity and passport documents to persons not eligible for these documents.”

According to Thomas, there has been high level interest, with Deputy President Paul Mashatile engaging with Phenya and meeting Deputy Minister of Police Cassel Mathale and the head of the Hawks, General Godfrey Lebeya.

“However, despite actionable intelligence, we are still waiting for arrests,” said Thomas.

Babita Deokoran and Cloete Murray

Whistle-blowers who have been killed include Babita Deokoran for reporting corruption at the Gauteng department of health and liquidator and corruption investigator Cloete Murray.

“I don’t know who killed my husband and who hired them, but until these questions are answered, I will live in fear. I live like a prisoner,” Phenya said.

Thomas said members of the Gauteng Provincial Anti-Corruption component of the Hawks are making progress “albeit at a slow pace”. But Phenya does not hold out much hope for justice.

“I am scared for this country where someone dies and nothing happens. If a world star like AKA gets killed and nothing happens, who am I to get justice?”

Law enforcement did not respond to questions from The Citizen.

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