State capture inquiry witness ‘flees’ South Africa
Corruption whistle-blower Athol Williams has left South Africa, saying he fears his life is in danger.
He testified against global consulting company Bain & Company at the state capture inquiry earlier this year.
Taking to social media on Sunday, Williams shared a statement in which he said he was “forced to leave SA” without his family and was in an undisclosed location.
“Concern for my safety had been growing since I blew the whistle on companies and individuals involved in state capture and testified before the Zondo commission. Rather than diminish after I testified, these concerns increased while the prospect of prosecutions grew,” Williams said in a statement.
The murder of senior Gauteng health department official Babita Deokaran fuelled his push to move, he said.
“After Deokaran was assassinated, concerns spiked because it showed authorities were choosing not to proactively protect whistle-blowers.
“Knowing my government offers me no protection after I’ve acted in the public interest is a disturbing reality. I implicated 39 parties in my testimony so threats could come from many places. After receiving warnings from trusted allies and a civil society organisation about a co-ordinated effort against me, I took the sad step to leave home, again without any help,” he said.
Deokaran, who had blown the whistle to the Special Investigating Unit on alleged corruption linked to Covid-19 health equipment procurements, was gunned down outside her Winchester Park home south of Johannesburg in August. Six men have been arrested for her killing.
Williams testified about how Bain was called into help restructure the SA Revenue Service (Sars) when it collapsed under the leadership of Tom Moyane.
He said he handed information to a commission of inquiry into tax administration and management and was very open in the media about the discrepancies he found. When he appeared before state capture chairperson Raymond Zondo, he testified about what he said was Bain’s refusal to admit complicity in state capture and the plundering of Sars.
In his statement, Williams said speaking out led to him being alienated.
“I’ve been let down by many friends. I’ve lost all sources of income and had to sell belongings to meet my obligations.
“I have suffered severe damage to my health and my reputation. Now I have lost my home, being forced out of the very country I acted to defend.
“I feel profound sadness that leaves me in tears. I shake my head asking: ‘How did it come to this?’” Williams said.
He said the government and corporates had failed whistle-blowers.
I have lost my home, being forced out of the very country I acted to defend. I feel profound sadness that leaves me in tearsWhistle-blower Atholl Williams
“They have let down all South Africans, preferring empty statements and platitudes over sincerity and authenticity. We are losing our battle against corruption because our government is allowing it, if not participating in it. We are losing our battle against corporate corruption because corporate boards and CEOs are allowing it, if not participating in it,” he said.
“We are losing our battle against the moral degeneration of our society because South Africans are choosing to be silent when we should be speaking up. I understand this silence. We only have to look at Deokaran’s fate and to the devastating experiences of whistle-blowers to understand the fear of speaking up. This is why we need citizens with moral courage, those who will do the right thing even when they face danger.”
He said even from abroad, he would continue to make the noise about corruption in South Africa.