Johannesburg: A 53-year-old Indian-origin lady in South Africa was allegedly slain for providing key information about a multi-million-Dollar PPE fraud during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown last year, forcing officials to open a high-level probe into the event.
Babita Deokaran, a senior officer at the Gauteng provincial Department of Health, was shot numerous times through her car door on her way home from school in a Johannesburg neighborhood on Tuesday. She was brought to the hospital but died as a result of her injuries.
A high-level investigation has been begun into the death of Deokaran, who gave key evidence about a more than 330 million rand (over USD 20 million) fraud in the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) during last year’s COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa.
According to Serious Crime Inquiry Unit (SIU) spokeswoman Kaizer Kganyago, Deokaran was one of the witnesses in the unit’s investigation into corruption in the health department, which was already reaching completion.
Kganyago stated that Deokaran had never expressed concern about her involvement in the process.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced the formation of a dedicated provincial police task squad to track out the offenders.
The SIU is the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office is also looking into claims from reliable sources that Deokaran’s murder was linked to the information she supplied on the fraud allegations.
Makhura stated that Deokaran was promoted from chief director of financial accounting to Acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in August 2020 as a result of the PPE fraud charges, which resulted in the dismissal of the provincial minister of Health last year.
Deokaran was described by the premier as “a remarkable and exemplary public servant who served the people of Gauteng and the Department of Health with exceptional professionalism, unshakable loyalty, and high ethical standards.”
Makhura said that Deokaran had discovered corruption and halted payments for a number of erroneous contracts in the department.
“She took to heart the need to bring corruption and plunder of public resources to justice.” Ms Deokaran contributed critical evidence to the disciplinary proceedings handled by the Office of the Premier and the SIU investigations as a result of her diligent and bold leadership.
“As a result of her excellent deeds, she was successfully dismissed within the department and civil claims to recover public monies from corporations and government personnel guilty for misconduct and corruption were instituted,” Makhura said in a statement.
“On behalf of the provincial government, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the Deokaran family and her colleagues in the Gauteng Department of Health.” The perpetrators of this heinous murder of an exceptional public worker must be aware that we have mobilised all available resources to track them down and bring them to justice.