SA president hails slain graft witness Deokaran: ‘A hero’
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
SOUTH AFRICAN African president Cyril Ramaphosa has called Babita Deokaran, the 53-year-old Indian-origin woman who was killed last month for allegedly providing critical information about a multi-million-dollar PPE (personal protective equipment) fraud during the coronavirus pandemic-induced lockdown last year, as a “hero and patriot”.
Deokaran, who was a senior official at the Gauteng provincial health department in South Africa, was shot several times through her car after she returned home in a Johannesburg suburb after dropping her kid at school. She was rushed to the hospital but couldn’t be saved.
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The woman was reportedly a key witness in the probe into a massive fraud into the supply of PPE during the 2020 lockdown. The scam came out at the Gauteng health department where Deokaran had been appointed as an acting financial director to help in the investigation.
‘Collective quest to remove cancer from society’
“Regardless of the circumstances behind this tragedy, Ms Deokaran was a hero and a patriot,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly letter to the nation dated August 30.
“(Her murder) is a stark reminder of the high stakes involved in our collective quest to remove this cancer from our society.
“While we do not yet know the motive for her murder, she was a key witness in a SIU (Serious Crime Investigation Unit) investigation into the procurement of personal protective equipment in the department,” the president said.
He also said that day by day, brave South Africans like Deokaran are standing firm that they will not be a party to corruption and will go to any extreme to fight it.
Meanwhile, two men were arrested in relation to the case on Thursday (2). This came in the wake of the arrest of six more last week. They have been charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and possession of unlicensed firearms.
Giving details on the latest arrests, South Africa’s police minister Bheki Cele said the suspects would have to account for the origin of the large quantity of cash that was found in their cars.
“The story was that it was an expensive exercise, where people were getting a lot of money each to pull the mission of killing Babita,” Cele said.
Investigators said the woman, who was in the car when Deokaran was shot, was unharmed but was moved to a “safe place” as a critical witness.
Earlier, Tony Haripersad, Deokaran’s brother-in-law, told reporters that the witness, whose identity is being protected, was traumatised by the experience but gave her statement to the detectives.