Twelve days before she was gunned down execution style, Gauteng government official Babita Deokaran had told a colleague in the department of health about her fears over her personal safety.
Two weeks since her assassination, evidence has emerged showing that Deokaran had been concerned that her life was in danger because of the dodgy payments that she had stopped to some contractors at Tembisa Hospital.
On the morning of Wednesday August 11, Deokaran, chief director of financial accounting in the department, sent a chilling Whatsapp message to the department’s chief financial officer, Lerato Madyo.
“Morning CFO, I am just worried that the guys in Tembisa are going to realise we are not releasing their payments and know that we are on to something. Our lives could be in danger,” she said.
In reply, Madyo said she had requested the head of department, Sibongile Zungu, to approve a budget for a forensic investigation into the contracts.
“Thank you. I am praying that she [Zungu] grants approval soon so that we can start. Thank you for the support,” Deokaran told Madyo at 8.25am on that day.
Twelve days later, on Monday August 23, at around 8.20am Deokaran died in a hail of bullets outside her home in the south of Johannesburg. She had just dropped her 16-year-old daughter at school when shots were fired through the driver’s window of her Mercedes – Benz.
An official in the department said Madyo and other officials in the department – especially in the supply chain management – were living in fear since the brutal killing of Deokaran.
They were also gravely concerned that there seemed to be no protection being offered by the government.
“Babita was executed. We are in a precarious situation. There is fear in how people are doing their work,” the official said.
“These kinds of attacks on officials have introduced fear, which will hamper service delivery. The people who got their contracts fair and square would not go to these lengths. There are several investigations into how we are paying contracts,” the official said, adding that they were dealing “with mafias here”.
The insider said officials felt that their lives were in danger for cooperating with law enforcement agencies that are investigating Deokaran’s killing and the personal protective equipment (PPE) saga.
In paying tribute to Deokaran, 53, Gauteng premier David Makhura said she had uncovered corruption and stopped payments of irregular contracts, including those in hospitals.
Makhura said Deokaran had provided crucial evidence in the process of disciplining those involved in the corruption related to the procurement of PPE. In the wake of her death, the special investigating unit revealed that Deokaran was also a whistleblower in their probe of the department’s
more than R300-million PPE tenders’ scandal.
Deokaran had insulated her family from the troubles she was experiencing in her line of duty. Her brother, Rakesh, had told this newspaper that she kept information about her work to herself.
Six suspects, all hitmen from Kwazulu-natal, have since been arrested in connection with Deokaran’s death.
They were due to return to court on Monday.
Zungu and Madyo could not be reached for comment. However, the department’s spokesperson Kwara Kekana said: “The department is not in a position to respond to the issues raised. Please refer them to the relevant law enforcement authorities.”
Hawks spokesperson, Lieutenant-colonel Philani Nkwalase, said he could not comment on the details of the case.
“The investigation into the murder continues and more arrests are expected. We are unable to speak on the details of our investigation lest we compromise the process,” he said.