VBS whistleblower still fears for life after four years in hiding

As seen recently with cases such as that of Babita Deokaran, blowing the whistle on crime may be one of the most dangerous things one could do in South Africa.

While some are not afraid to come out in the open and call out corrupt activity, this is not always an option for others.

Speaking to The Citizen, one of the whistleblowers who spoke out against the VBS bank scandal in Limpopo, said life has never been the same for him or his loved ones since he decided to speak up four years ago.

He said he and his colleagues got into trouble at the time, for merely asking questions and raising concerns about the controversial VBS contract, in which their municipality had decided to invest taxpayers’ money.

At least 20 municipalities in Limpopo, North West and Gauteng lost nearly R1.6 billion after illegally investing with the bank. In Limpopo alone, about 11 municipalities invested money to the value of R12 billion with the bank.

At least seven mayors across the province have since been fired by the Limpopo Provincial Government over their involvement in the VBS bank scandal, but this doesn’t mean life for those who opposed the wrongdoing returned to normal.

ALSO READ: VBS Bank: Thulamela ex-mayor, municipal manager case set for pre-trial

“That’s when the trouble started, some of my colleagues were also threatened and ultimately killed for asking those important questions. Those people would go as far as going to my house, just to warn me to stop asking too many questions,” the whistleblower told The Citizen.

He said going into hiding for the past four years, meant also nearly losing his family.

“In fact, even my wife and kids feared so much for their own lives, to a point where they decided to move out of our house.

“If I decide to go and see my family and sleep over, I have to first inform the police, who would then arrange for some officers to accompany me and spend those two or three days I would be spending with my loved ones.”

He said socializing has now become a thing of the past, as he constantly has to watch his back wherever he goes.

“Even if I go to a car wash and find a queue, the car wash owners would quickly push my car in first in the queue, just so that my car could be washed quickly in order for me to leave as soon as possible.

“A former colleague of mine (may his soul rest in peace), was killed after he was threatened in front of his family… It’s really bad.

Accepting the consequence of your decision

Another prominent whistleblower and former executive at the South African Revenue Services (SARS), Johann Van Loggerenberg, said he has have never lived in fear.

“I’ve always accepted the consequences and potential fallout that come with standing up against corruption, the State Capture gang, criminals in contestation with the South African Revenue Service, and their sycophants.

“Where the appropriate platforms and situations demanded of me to take a stand, I’ve never hesitated to do so and I’ve always tried to maintain the moral high ground, despite the personal nature of attacks on me at all times…this won’t change,” Van Loggerenberg said.

Early this year, van Loggerenberg’s home was broken into, barely days after burglars targeted state capture whistleblower Themba Maseko’s home.

ALSO READ: Burglars target former Sars executive Johann van Loggerenberg’s home

He said he lacks sufficient words to describe the emotional, physical, psychological and practical effects that follow being a whistleblower in South Africa.

“These extend to families and friends of whistleblowers, the effects and trauma extend well beyond individuals, and I’ve had to encounter instances of broken families, children that were harmed and traumatised, friends that were damaged, livelihoods lost, and the like.

“It is an extremely difficult situation to be in, and history has shown whistleblowers are not adequately protected or considered in our legal framework in government, nor by our Parliament, and the legal development of whistleblower protection has been very slow,” he said.

Van Loggerenberg is of the opinion that it is ultimately an issue about personal values.

“One stands up for what is right and oppose what is wrong, or one elects not to do so and allow it to continue unabated.

“My own values, inherited from my parents and mentors throughout my career, made me to choose to stand up for what is right, regardless,” Van Loggerenberg said.

Meanwhile it was revealed this week that the Gauteng Provincial Government would appoint an independent forensic investigator to probe allegations relating to the murder of another whistleblower Babita Deokaran.

According to reports, Doekaran was brutally killed after she made revelations about millions of Rand in alleged corrupt and fraudulent contracts.

ALSO READ: Gauteng Premier ‘trying to save face’ with Deokaran murder

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