Extract: Mandy Wiener’s ‘The Whistleblowers’ exhibits the price of talking out

The colourful and tenacious Ziyanda Ngcobo is a senior political reporter at Newzroom Afrika. She has spent the previous few years investigating political violence in KwaZulu-Natal, visiting uMzimkhulu many instances to interview victims and their households. She is aware of the lay of the land. Her podcast on the death of Sindiso Magaqa, produced whereas she was at EWN, interrogated the motives behind his demise and tried to unravel the thriller.

Political violence in KwaZulu-Natal is mysterious. It by no means reaches a conclusion,” she tells me. “Justice nonetheless hasn’t been served. Folks, after they do get arrested, ultimately get launched from jail, or the justice system continues to fail both the households and even whistleblowers who really come ahead with essential info. Due to the character of political killings within the province, it’s really a community of many individuals working collectively and so attending to the underside of instances has turn out to be very troublesome.”

As Ngcobo explains, political violence within the province typically boils all the way down to the scramble for assets. It has its roots in historic standoffs pre-1994. “There simply hasn’t been a method to totally cease the violence; it’s now only for completely different causes. So earlier than 1994 it was ANC versus IFP, whereas it’s now about who will get to turn out to be a councillor and who will get entry to native authorities assets in municipalities and the patronage networks.”

I ask Ngcobo whether or not Magaqa needs to be thought of a whistleblower. In any case, he apparently raised the alarm on corruption, in keeping with his buddies. She contemplates this for a second.

“It’s what his buddies say he was, however I don’t know the character of what it was he uncovered. I’d by no means been a part of any of these ANC department conferences the place he was stated to have raised the difficulty of the funds that had been meant to go to the memorial corridor. Additionally, there are numerous theories that individuals have as to why they imagine that Magaqa was murdered. 

“After I did my investigation there was additionally dialogue that he was having a love affair that turned bitter with the spouse of considered one of his good comrades. Others will inform you that it was a enterprise deal gone bitter; that he was a part of some unlawful enterprise dealings. However Thabiso Zulu will inform you that’s only a narrative that was established to distract individuals from the true purpose behind why he was killed, which is that he spoke out in opposition to corruption throughout the uMzimkhulu municipality,’ Ngcobo says. 

The reporter first got here throughout Zulu when he spoke at Magaqa’s memorial service. She was astonished by what he and Les Stuta stated on the time.

“There was a hotly contested ANC conference in 2017 and, after all, now President Cyril Ramaphosa versus Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and there have been simply loads of killings on the time. Lots of them weren’t excessive profile, however Magaqa’s was excessive profile due to the position he performed within the ANC Youth League. His service was carried by most broadcasters and Zulu and Stuta used the service to discuss the explanations they imagine had been the motive behind his killing. They stated fairly emphatically and boldly on the time, given the variety of killings that had been going down, that they believed Zulu was murdered as a result of he blew the whistle on corruption within the uMzimkhulu municipality, associated to the constructing of the memorial corridor and that funds had been stolen.” 

Ngcobo had heard rumblings and murmurings about this corruption, however few had been keen to go on the report about it. Zulu, however, was outspoken.

“Zulu additionally grew to become very fashionable as a result of he was one of many few individuals on the time that was daring sufficient to publicly say what was sort of an open secret or one thing that individuals would speak to you about off the report however weren’t keen to talk to you publicly about,” she says.

“I’d think about him a whistleblower as a result of he really had paperwork: he gave names. And after interacting with him at a later stage he had sure paperwork and proof to again up his claims, which he gave to the police. My understanding is that the police additionally tried to method him, however the stage of distrust between him and the police was such that there have been sure folks that he wouldn’t work together with. Zulu on the time additionally stated some cops had been a part of the complete rip-off to cowl up what occurred with the cash, regardless of reporting it to the Hawks as properly. He claims the community goes that deep.”

There’s a completely different facet to the story, Ngcobo says.

The politics within the Harry Gwala region in KwaZulu-Natal have all the time been fairly risky and violent. By means of its historical past and thru its nature and a few individuals, for those who converse to individuals on the opposite facet who will defend the municipal officers, they may inform you that individuals like Magaqa and Zulu had been simply upset they weren’t in control of the method as a result of they, too, would have wished to embezzle funds. However, I imply, that’s all simply rumour.”

Ngcobo mentions an investigation on this matter carried out by the workplace of the public protector. In the direction of the tip of September 2017, after Sindiso’s demise and funeral, public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane determined to conduct an “personal initiative investigation” into the allegations due to the general public curiosity and the seriousness of the claims. She was involved concerning the imprudent use of public funds, in addition to the allegations of deaths of councillors who could have blown the whistle on the matter. As a part of this investigation, she interviewed Zulu and Stuta and acknowledged the significance of those whistleblower disclosures in her probe. 

A 12 months later, in direction of the tip of 2018, the general public protector launched her report. The damning findings supported Zulu’s allegations. She concluded that the proper procurement processes weren’t adopted, that there was no aggressive bidding course of within the appointment of the contractors for the corridor, that the expenditure was irregular, and the conduct of the municipality was improper. Mkhwebane additionally discovered that Minister of Police Bheki Cele and the South African Police Service (SAPS) had failed to supply safety for each Zulu and Stuta and that this “uncovered them to the chance of being assassinated”. 

As well as, she discovered that the conduct of the minister and the SAPS had been improper and there was an undue delay, gross negligence and maladministration. Her remedial actions included that each males be given state-funded safety. Cele filed papers in courtroom, taking the report on evaluation. 

That is an edited extract from The Whistleblower (Pan Macmillan) by Mandy Wiener.