Deokaran murder suspects' bail hearing delayed

Tankiso Makhetha Investigative reporter

Lawyer asks for more time to consult with clients

The bail hearing of six men accused of killing senior Gauteng health department finance official Babita Deokaran has been postponed.
The bail hearing of six men accused of killing senior Gauteng health department finance official Babita Deokaran has been postponed.
Image: Supplied

Six men accused of murdering whistleblower Babita Deokaran will have to wait another three weeks before their bail application is heard. 

The six – Phakamani Hadebe, Zita Hadebe, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Sanele Mbele, Siphiwe Mazibuko and Phakanyiswa Dladla – face charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

They were arrested three days after the murder of the corruption-buster. 

During their brief appearance in the Johannesburg magistrate’s court on Monday, their legal representative, Sharfique Sarlie, asked the court to postpone the matter as he had not adequately consulted with his clients ahead of the scheduled bail hearing. 

Sarlie told the court that he has not been able to consult with his clients due to Covid-19 regulations restricting prison visits. 

“It is difficult to obtain instructions (from my clients) because they are held at the Johannesburg Correctional Facility where I can only consult them on Fridays between 10am and 2pm. I’ve only had two days to consult with them because I have only had two days to see them since their last appearance on August 31,” Sarlie told the court. 

He told the court that his constraints were worsened by a waiting period of close to an hour while at the correctional facility on each of his visits.

“There are six bail applicants and the state was only able to furnish us with an opposing affidavit to their bail on September 3. There is a substantial amount of information contained in that affidavit that requires verification and as things stand, we are not in a position to proceed with the bail application,” he said. 

The court granted Sarlie his request for a postponement until October 1 when he believes that he would have been able to compile all the information he needs to commence with the bail application. 

ActionSA president Herman Mashaba and the party’s eThekwini municipality mayoral candidate Makhosi Khoza were present during court proceedings. Deokaran, who worked for the Gauteng health department, was originally from Verulum in KZN where she was buried.

Mashaba told the media that his presence during court proceedings was informed by the nature of Deokaran’s murder and that it was not part of campaigning ahead of the local government elections scheduled for November 1. 

“Babita’s murder was a political murder and we as a political party it’s our responsibility to stand up against it. We cannot afford to live in a country that is lawless, where whistleblowers are killed for making a stand against corruption,” he said. 

Deokaran, who worked in the department’s financial office, was a whistleblower in a Special Investigating Unit probe into R332.5m worth of Covid-19 personal protective equipment procurements that were allegedly irregularly awarded.

She was gunned down last month outside her Winchester Hills home in southern Johannesburg.

Pops Ramparsad, chairperson of Active Citizens Movement, a civil organisation committed to supporting whistleblower action against state and corporate corruption, said Deokaran’s murder could have been avoided as they made a submission to the state capture commission on strengthening the legislation concerning the protection of the lives of whistleblowers. 

“President Cyril Ramaphosa made his second appearance and spoke about whistleblowers, less than two weeks after that, Babita was murdered. The state needs to provide protection to whistleblowers, strengthen the legislation which aims to protect them and have ongoing conversations with whistleblowers,” said Ramparsad.

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