South Africa

AGE OF THE ASSASSIN

A year after Babita Deokaran’s assassination, trial of six accused gets off to slow start

A year after Babita Deokaran’s assassination, trial of six accused gets off to slow start
The six men accused of murdering whistle-blower Babita Deokaran appear at the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court for bail applications on 9 December 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

Wednesday, 24 August marked a year and a day since Babita Deokaran was assassinated outside her home, with six suspects making their second appearance in the Johannesburg High Court. But the mastermind behind her assassination is still at large.

This Tuesday was a year since the assassination of Gauteng Health Department whistle-blower Babita Deokaran, but the wheels of justice appear to be grinding very slowly. The case has twice been postponed for pre-trial hearings since it was transferred from the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court to the high court. 

The six suspects accused of murdering Deokaran and attempting to murder her domestic worker, who was in the car with her at the time of her killing, appeared briefly on Wednesday for the second time at the Johannesburg High Court. 

Investigators believe her death was a targeted hit linked to her involvement as a witness in a R332-million PPE scandal.

The suspects, Phakamani Hadebe, Zitha Radebe, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Sanele Mbhele, Siphiwe Mazibuko and Siphakanyiswa Dladla, were charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.


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 Funds for defence

According to Shafique Sarlie, the legal representative of the six accused, the case was postponed because the six are still trying to raise funds to cover their legal fees and because there is new evidence that needs to be reviewed.

“The accuseds’ support groups — friends and family —  are trying to raise money to fund their defences, and that’s the bottom line. We are waiting for them to come back to us. On the other hand, more evidential material has come through every other day which I have not looked at and there are more forensic reports to come.”

Previously, the case had been postponed because, Sarlie told the court, they had received the docket, which was 1,600 pages long, and required time to get things in order and to consult with the clients. 

Sarlie told media representatives at the court that by 6 October they would be ready to look at trial dates. “There is just one preliminary step required, which is the pretrial. In essence, it is a trial before the trial to agree on issues to shorten the proceedings. The trial will probably take eight to 10 weeks.” 

On the sidelines of the case, News24 conducted an investigation which revealed that in the weeks leading up to Deokaran’s death she had flagged R850-million of dodgy payments out of Tembisa Hospital and was afraid for her safety. 

Nothing was done at the time, but following the News24 reports, Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s office instituted an independent forensic investigation to probe allegations related to the assassination. 

The six accused remain in custody without bail applications. The case was postponed to 6 October. DM

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