Blow the Whistle
A whistleblower is someone who sees wrongdoing, and speaks out about it! Like a soccer ref who sees a foul and the ‘blows the whistle’, a whistleblower uses their freedom of expression to speak up and let the public know that someone is breaking the law or doing something wrong.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES? Someone who exposes a company that is exploiting its workers is a whistleblower. An official who exposes municipal corruption is a whistleblower. When the public gets information about illegal activity – in government or a private company – that information is often coming from a whistleblower. That person may take information to an elected official, a body like the Public Protector or Human Rights Commission, or a journalist.
Here is three examples of famous whistleblowers :
Moss Phakoe – Corruption, North-West province
ANC councillor in the Rustenburg local municipality was gunned down on 14 March 2009 in his car on his way home. Moss Phakoe aimed to expose multimillion-rand fraud in North West’s drought-relief projects. Two days before his murder, Phakoe met (now deceased) Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka to hand over a dossier of allegations about office bearers and officials in the Bojanala District Municipality. It took three years before any arrests were made. In July 2012, former Rustenburg mayor Matthew Wolmarans and his former bodyguard, Enoch Mtshaba, were found guilty of murder in the Rustenburg High Court.
Roberta Nation – Optimum Medical Scheme fraud, State Security Agency
Nation is still employed by Optimum Medical Scheme, which serves members of the State Secrecy Agency (SSA) as well as their beneficiaries. In February 2012 it came to light that the SSA sought to sideline Roberta Nation after she claimed there were fraudulent activities related to their medical scheme and that they tried to prevent her from obtaining independent legal advice. She seeked counsel from lawyers outside the agency to take up her case based on her allegations of fraud running into hundreds of thousands of rand. The Right2Know campaign demands that the Agency takes swift action on the fraud in its own ranks, takes a clear position in its representations on the Secrecy Bill and stops silencing those who speak out against corruption and injustice, both outside and within intelligence structures.
Imraahn Mukaddam – Whistleblowers, bread price-fixing
Shop keeper Mukuddam raised a complaint with the Competition Commission after noticing that the bread suppliers to his shop were colluding with regards to putting up their prices at the same time and by the same amount. This case led to the Competition Tribunal fining Premier Foods, Tiger Brands and Pioneer Foods for the sum of R99m. The price fixing collusion by these large food companies robbed the majority of poor and vulnerable households in South Africa on a daily basis. Since speaking out, Mukaddam’s small business has gone under. Prior to blowing the whistle, Mukaddam distributed between 4 500 and 5 000 loaves of bread a day. At present while he is contesting this matter at the Competition Tribunal, his bread distribution figures have dropped down to the estimated figure of 1 400 loaves and many suppliers have stopped doing business with him.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS? Although the Constitution protects the rights of whistleblowers, and we have laws that are meant to protect and promote whistleblowers (such as the Protected Disclosures Act) in reality there is not much protection for whistleblowers, and these people face huge challenges! For example, people who blow the whistle on their employer often lose their job! Sometimes the corrupt person will say the whistleblower has broken the law and hire a lawyer to threaten the person or take them to court. Sometimes whistleblowers have even been hurt or killed.
South Africa’s whistleblowers are being targeted, intimidated, and silenced. We must stand with them!