Remember Babita Deokaran! Act against corruption in department of health, demand activists

Marking Whistleblower Protection Week, the demonstrators remembered Babita Deokaran, the health department whistleblower who was assassinated in 2021.

Led by Defend Our Democracy, activists called for Gauteng Premier Lesufi to take action against corruption in the health sector.

On Wednesday afternoon, activists from Defend our Democracy and other civil society groups held a picket outside the Gauteng provincial legislature to also mark Anti-Corruption Week, and Whistleblower Protection Week which is run between 3-10 December 2022.

“We are calling on the Gauteng provincial government, Gauteng legislature and the premier to update the public about the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation into alleged corruption at Tembisa Hospital. Where is this investigation and when can we expect its conclusion? The premier must extend the investigations to all other Gauteng health facilities to ascertain if the same method is being employed elsewhere,” said Ona Matshaya from Defend Our Democracy.

“While corrupt tender people are stealing hundreds of millions and spending on dubious purchases like skinny jeans and boerewors, peoples’ lives are on the line. We are saying enough is enough and something must be done,” Matshaya continued. 

Others organisations which joined the picket include Right2Know, Macua, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF). The civic organisation  groups said they were “angered” and worried that the country’s health institutions could become sites of looting and corruption and state capture. 

Neeshan Balton, of the AKF, said corruption in the country seemed to have been “normalised and gets accepted”. “This demonstration is about pointing to the need to root corruption out, particularly from the health sector in Gauteng, where we have seen the most disastrous effect during Covid. We are here because we are concerned that the poorest of our country are feeling the effects of the dilapidating healthcare system in Gauteng, which is under severe strain,” said Balton. 

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Following dancing and singing slogans outside the legislature, the organisations handed over a memorandum of demands to Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s office. 

Some of their demands are that, the premier must put in place measures that demand more stringent accountability and transparency for all procurement at public hospitals. 

“The crime of stealing from the poor, the ill and the marginalised in order to live a lavish lifestyle is atrocious. It takes a certain kind of depravity to steal money meant for medicine, life support systems, for hospital beds, and for more doctors and nurses to ease the strain on those already overworked in public health facilities,” their memorandum reads.

They are also demanding that Lesufi blacklists businesses, and their owners, found to be complicit in corruption, and that he works with the SIU and civil society groups to develop a corruption whistleblower hotline, that is properly capacitated. 

“We have previously raised concerns with the provincial government around the potential for corruption at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital after parts of the facility were closed for refurbishment after a fire incident. It would be unconscionable to let the corruption in the health sector off the hook,” they further state in their demands. 

The organisation also urged that the murder of whistleblower Babita Deokaran, be not in vain. Deokaran was assassinated outside her home in Johannesburg after she had fingered the provincial health department for corrupt transactions. And she allegedly stopped R100-million in “possibly fraudulent” payments, and had flagged other transactions, valued at R850-million out of Tembisa Hospital. 

Defend our Democracy also demanded that the premier suspends tenders of any businesses that are currently under investigation by the SIU, or any other investigative unit. 

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About Chris Gilili 50 Articles
Chris Gilili, a 23 year old freelance journalist based in East London. Graduated from Walter Sisulu University media studies school in 2015. Had a stint with Independent Media, in sports writing. Passionate about news and the media.