Are whistle-blowers protected as they take on South Africa’s corruption crisis?
South Africa is experiencing a corruption crisis and whistle-blowers could play a crucial role in addressing this. But the socio-political context is hostile to whistle-blowing and South Africans who witness fraud and corruption often prefer to remain silent for fear of reprisal.
On 5 November 2020, former South Africa Airways (SAA) board chair, Dudu Myeni, revealed the identity of an anonymous whistle-blower who had given evidence in camera at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture.
The Commission had ordered the protection of the identity of the whistle-blower, dubbed “Mr X”, in February this year.
Despite repeated warnings not to, Myeni named the whistle-blower several times in response to allegations put to her by Advocate Kate Hofmeyr.
Hofmeyr addressed the Commission, submitting that Myeni’s conduct amounted to a wilful obstruction of the Commission in the performance of its function and could deter future whistle-blowers.
South Africa’s Corruption Crisis
Just last month, Thabiso Zulu, a whistle-blower who had testified at the Moerane Commission about municipal corruption in the Harry Gwala municipality, was shot in an alleged assassination attempt.
Controversial Bosasa whistle-blower Angelo Agrizzi recently told the Daily Maverick that there had been two assassination attempts on his life.
If whistle-blowers are to be protected as they take on South Africa’s corruption crisis, the protections afforded to them will need to be strictly enforced.
There is an argument for the increase in protection of whistle-blowers in the current climate.
The South African regulatory framework lacks robust protection of witnesses to fraud and corruption, particularly relating to state governance and public funds.