Why SA needs more heroes like Babita Deokaran

Murdered Gauteng department of health finance official Babita Deokaran was due to be a witness in an investigation into PPE irregularities.
Murdered Gauteng department of health finance official Babita Deokaran was due to be a witness in an investigation into PPE irregularities.
Image: SUPPLIED

The swift arrest of seven men for the murder of corruption buster Babita Deokaran is very welcome. However, it does not erase the anger. Deokaran should never have died for doing what is right, patriotic and of great benefit to this country.

The profile of a SA hero has changed since the advent of democracy. However, it has taken time for us to fully realise this.

During apartheid the hero was the defiant activist who stood up against the might of the apartheid machinery. Today, heroes are people like Deokaran who stand against the rot of corruption and the illicit money that drives it. There are many SA heroes like her, who, at great risk and unbelievable cost, have stood against the common enemy of corruption, rot and the lawlessness which entrench poverty in our society.

We need more people like her if we are to win the war against corruption and criminality which threatens our nation.

In the face of the recent unemployment figures released by Stats SA, it is becoming desperately clear that we need another type of hero as well. Incidentally this type of hero coexists very well with corruption busters like Deokaran. These are entrepreneurs.

These are the heroes who conjure up something from nothing, who bring together the elements of production to create products and services for the benefit of our society. The result of their magic is the creation of jobs and the meaningful economic engagement of all types of members of society.

The status of hero for corruption busters and entrepreneurs requires an attitude change from our society. Not only has our government invested too little in promoting and protecting corruption busters and whistle-blowers, but it has failed to create a conducive environment for entrepreneurship.

This must not be confused with a lack of appreciation for the importance of corruption busters and entrepreneurs. It has just become the  norm for our government to pay lip service to important issues, taking a cue from toxic post liberation politics.

The archaic political rhetoric which has facilitated our collective decline to a record 34.4% unemployment rate, state capture and an unacceptably high crime rate is sticking stubbornly to our collective thick hides. Our voting trends, social disintegration and consequent economic stagnation are all products of our inability to shake off the past and break free from liberation politics.

Unfortunately, those of us who call themselves our leaders, whose mandate it is to lead this society towards a better destiny, have instead shackled it to the past.

Why is it still a thing to keep quiet here even in the face of deterioration, corruption and outright crime? Was this not what happened during state capture?  Why do we still have politicians who thrive on casting aspersions towards private business and consequently entrepreneurship? Why is business often viewed as an enemy, by people who benefit from business through taxes, employment, products and services?

Why are whistle-blowers and corruption busters often looked at with suspicion, perhaps as people who cause people to lose jobs, when they protect this country? I’ll tell you why, because we are at the mercy of politicians who have no vision and no conviction towards this country.

So, the question of who will change the minds and attitudes of South Africans, so that they can decide to take up new heroes, remains. It is hardly feasible to expect politicians who benefit from our collective high regard for past heroes to assist in the creation of new heroes.

Our politicians would love for us to keep looking at them as heroes and saviours, when they may be the very opposite.

The loudest of these politicians would see us end in absolute poverty without ever admitting that they have no idea what they are talking about.

We desperately need new heroes who will take our collective gaze towards an open and honest future. It is only in such a future that entrepreneurs can work their magic freely, confident in the rule of law and the possible rewards of calculated risk-taking.

Corruption busters not only facilitate this future, but ensure this state of openness and ease of operation for entrepreneurs remains in place, and perhaps improves over time.

We need to change who we regard as heroes. Perhaps we must become heroes ourselves. And, like Deokaran, shine the light in the darkest places. They can’t kill us all.


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