Maverick Citizen


Gunned down a year ago — devastated family pay tribute to Babita Deokaran while murder masterminds remain free

Gunned down a year ago — devastated family pay tribute to Babita Deokaran while murder masterminds remain free
Babita Deokaran’s sister Sharlene Ramgoolam (right) and Deokaran’s daughter Thia during the ceremony. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

It is a chilly night in Mondeor, south of Johannesburg and a large group gathers outside a quaint home, candles in hand, to mourn and reflect on corruption fighter Babita Deokaran’s gruesome death, a year later.

The group gathered to honour Babita Deokaran is comprised of activists from organisations such as the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Action for Accountability, and Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) along with her friends and family. As the director of financial accounting, she flagged the siphoning of millions from the public purse at the Gauteng Department of Health, through activities such as Covid-19-related tenders for personal protective equipment.

deokaran candlelight ceremony

People hold banners and posters during a candlelight ceremony, held outside Babita Deokaran’s Winchester Hills home, south of Johannesburg, where she was killed a year ago. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

dekaran ali gule outa

Ali Gule (white cap), of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, and others during a candlelight ceremony, held outside Babita Deokaran’s Winchester Hills home, south of Johannesburg, where she was killed a year ago. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

deokaran memorial

A photo of Babita Deokaran on a banner as people pay tribute to her at the Mondeor Baptist Church, Johannesburg. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

deokaran friends family

Friends and family pay tribute to Babita Deokaran, who was gunned down a year ago. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

deokaran mondeor church

The Mondeor Baptist Church was filled to capacity as many paid tribute to the slain whistle-blower Babita Deokaran, who was gunned down a year ago. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Deokaran’s sister Sharlene Ramgoolam said that while the nation mourned her as a corruption fighter and a hero, her family mourned the person behind the name, the mother, daughter, sister and aunt. “Babita’s life revolved around her commitment to work, her family, and her only child; they spent every waking moment together,” said Ramgoolam.

babita sister ramgoolam

Babita Deokaran’s sister Sharlene Ramgoolam said Babita loved cooking and had taken out ingredients to bake on the morning she was murdered. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Outa’s Ali Gule shares a moment with Babita Deokaran’s daughter Thia. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Ramgoolam said Deokaran was the person cooking at family gatherings, the one who initiated weekly Zoom meetings for the family during lockdowns, and the nurturer of even strangers. She had seven siblings. Ramgoolam said they “grew up thinking we were invincible because of our bond, but now we see that we are not.”

Ramgoolam encouraged other whistle-blowers to stand strong and remember fighters such as Deokaran who stood for honesty and integrity till the end.


Wayne Duvenage from the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) spoke at the memorial in the Mondeor Baptist church. “We cannot be sitting here a year later, and nothing has been done about it; where is the real investigation that should have started the moment after Babita’s death? We need the government to investigate suspensions as this is a way to move whistle-blowers out. Since Babitas’s death, we have had several cases where people pulled out because they were afraid to go down the same road as Babita…We can not allow this to happen any more, the lip service is there but not enough is being done,” said Duvenage.

deokaran momoniat

Mr Ismail Momoniat, acting Director-General of the National Treasury, referred to Babita Deokaran as a real hero. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Acting Director-General in the Treasury Ismail Momoniat said it was easier to be a hero during apartheid than it was now, without minimising that experience.

He said he looked at matters in the context of fighting a deeply entrenched system of corruption.

“When we speak of corrupt countries, we think of Pakistan, we talk of Nigeria, but let us be clear, we are probably more corrupt than those countries. We have to look at ourselves… The difference in us is… those who loot and still don’t think they have to stop at 10% or 20%, they want 100%,” said Momoniat.

He attributed widespread corruption to cadre deployment, and that some civil servants were political figures first and servants second.

‘A form of treason’

“We started as a crippled state and we are unable to meet the needs of our people; even in times where there is a crisis, disaster, people were too busy stealing during Covid. It is not just disgraceful, it’s a form of treason,” said Momoniat.

deokaran mothibi

Special Investigating Unit head Andy Mothibi said investigations into allegations against Tembisa Hospital would begin soon and would be swift and effective. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

deokaran ngoye

Martha Ngoye, who spoke on Prasa corruption, said as a single mother of a 19-year-old, she thanked God that she was still alive. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Other speakers echoed their disappointment in how slowly the wheels of justice were turning for Babita Deokaran and other activists under siege, such as those in Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Sekoetlane Phamodi, Country Director for South Africa at the Accountability Lab, said:

“She said ‘not on her watch’ and showed the rest of us we can’t let it be on ours. Our collective outrage at the loss of Babita’s life can be redirected towards real action for accountability and our moment has long been waiting for us. We must and can galvanise for not only the strengthening of whistle-blower protection laws, but the effective implementation to prevent what never should have happened to Babita and many others.” DM/MC


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Helen Swingler says:

    There must be justice for this brave soul. It’s on our watch too. Is there a collective we can add our individual voices to as citizens? Does OUTA have a petition or a protest planned? How can we act? Many want to make a stand.

    • Leonie Pentz says:

      @Helen Swingler I agree. We need to be part of the change we want to see. Let’s support people (and their families) who stand up for justice. Our brave Journalists are already doing a fantastic job on this platform. But the relentless tide of corruption and crime that goes hand in hand with it seem to sweep our people into an abyss of helplessness, what do we do?

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