SOWETAN | Protecting whistle-blowers far outweighs any internal probe

Exposure of Spur deal has enormous implications on transparency

Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

We witnessed how widespread and brazen corruption is in the country  as the State Capture Commission held hearings live on television.

It was not a pretty picture,  but a worrying one as corruption hinders economic growth, erodes public trust and is a source of instability in the country.

Whistle-blowers are important fighters  in the battle against corruption, as they promote transparency, accountability and clean governance in public and private institutions. They deserve praise and protection.

That is why we are against the forensic probe launched by SA Tourism (SAT) to find the people who leaked discussion documents on the agencys planned sponsorship of the English Premiership club Tottenham Hotspur.

On Wednesday, the SAT announced that its board had decided to conduct an investigation into the leaking of the deal deliberations held on January 27.

We are aware that institutions have policies in place which prohibit employees from leaking confidential information.

We also do not know what steps the whistle-blower in this case took to raise alarm internally as per the requirement in the Protected Disclosures Act, 2000.

An employee can disclose information to a legal representative, employer, member of cabinet or executive council, specified body or generally to any other person. In the general disclosure, the employee must act in good faith and believe that the information is true. The employee must also have the assurance that a disclosure to the employer will not lead to victimisation or a cover up.

Regardless, there is no moral comparison between the two, this deal – as shown by the public outrage – was in the public interest.

It had enormous implications on transparency and warding off possible impropriety. It has been widely reported that SATs interim CFO, Johan van der Walt allegedly has ties with the company that was due to facilitate the deal between the agency and Spurs.

The reasons stated above far outweigh the agencys internal code of conduct.

On face value the agencys probe seems like a witch hunt. Going after whistle-blowers sets back the cries to strengthen their protection, as they are often left in peril – they are victimised, harassed and even killed.

The murder of Babita Deokaran, the late acting financial officer of the Gauteng health department who blew a whistle on corruption, is an example of how lack of protection can jeopardise the safety of whistle-blowers.

We should all be calling for their protection, not be against them.

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