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General: SA failure to protect whistle-blowers takes flak

Amnesty International SA says its unacceptable that whistle-blowers are treated with disdain by the government when they are risking their lives to combat corruption. It expressed it concerns after whistle-blower Athol Williams said he was forced to leave the country because he feared for his life. ‘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 whistle-blowers with protection,’ said Amnesty’s executive director, Shenilla Mohamed. The Citizen reports Mohamed said whistle-blowers were critical to any democracy because they are a warning sign that something is going wrong. Williams, who testified at the State Capture Inquiry, 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 Deokaran was gunned down in August outside her home in Johannesburg. Williams said Deokaran’s murder showed authorities were choosing not to proactively protect whistle-blowers. ‘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.’ The report adds that after Deokaran’s murder, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the protection of whistle-blowers, saying they were the greatest weapons SA had in the fight against the abuse of power and the theft of public resources.

Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage has urged the government to ask Williams what it would take to bring him back and convince him that 'this country is worth living in’. A report on the News24 site notes that Duvenage was part of the panel at the launch of Defend Our Democracy's anti-corruption week campaign. In the build-up to the International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, Defend Our Democracy has urged citizens to champion the fight against corruption. ‘He has left because there is no meaningful support for whistle-blowers, there is no protection, there are no laws that really substantially help whistle-blowers to stand up and do what they have to do,’ he said.

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