Babita Deokaran was a corruption whistle-blower within the Gauteng Department of Health, who was assassinated in a hit-style killing outside her south Johannesburg home in August 2021.

In her role as chief director: financial accounting, Deokaran had been a bulwark against irregular and dubious payments. Owing to her position, she was also in control of the evidentiary paper trail left by those who preyed on public funds, making her an invaluable asset to the Special Investigating Unit.  

A News24 investigation which spanned six months – examining in excess of 60 000 e-mails and the contents of her cellphone – can reveal the vivid detail of what was her final graft investigation.

In this series, titled Silenced, we reveal what she found in the days before her murder.

By News24 Investigations

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Part one | 'Our lives could be in danger: Inside Babita Deokaran's R850m 'fraud' probe

Babita Deokaran tried to stop R100 million in dodgy payments and flagged nearly R850 million in other suspicious transactions at the Gauteng Department of Health just days before she was killed - confiding in colleagues that her last investigation could result in her death.

"...I am just worried that the guys in Tembisa are going to realise we are not releasing their payments and know that we on to something. Our lives could be in danger," Deokaran said in a WhatsApp message to her boss. 

Deokaran - a senior manager at the Gauteng health department - was ambushed by hitmen outside her home in Winchester Hills, south Johannesburg. She was shot nine times while pulling into her driveway after dropping off her daughter at school and later died in hospital. Her murder put an end to a decade of cooperation with the Special Investigating Unit and the Hawks as a critical witness within her department. 

Nearly a year after she was murdered - drawing from a trove of more than 60 000 emails and the contents of her cellphone - News24 can reveal details of her final graft probe.

Part two | Babita Deokaran tried to stop ‘secret’ Tembisa Hospital payments to ANC leader

Three little-known companies headed by Gauteng ANC heavyweight Sello Sekhokho scored contracts providing medical supplies and equipment to Tembisa Hospital worth R2.3 million - his windfall flagged as "potentially fraudulent" by Department of Health chief accountant Babita Deokaran just three weeks before she was murdered.   

One firm - Kaizen Projects - is among a network of 217 entities Deokaran identified as part of a flood of transactions out of Tembisa Hospital, her suspicion piqued by a buying spree which shot expenditure in July of 2021 sharply up. In a single month, goods and services for the tertiary hospital accounted for R239 million, 25% more than Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, which is four times its size.   

The whistleblower reported the splurge to department CFO Lerato Madyo and called for an immediate investigation and a stop on payments worth R104 million. Ten months after she was gunned down in a hit-style killing outside her south Johannesburg home, the payments out of the hospital have yet to be probed in their entirety. 

Part three | No investigation, no protection: Inside department head's big lie to Babita Deokaran

Gauteng Health boss Lerato Madyo lied when she told Babita Deokaran that her discovery of R850m in dubious Tembisa Hospital payments had been bumped up the chain of command.

News24 can reveal that it was only on the day of Deokaran's assassination that Madyo mentioned to her superiors, in passing, that the whistleblower was worried her life was in danger after moving to halt payments to a politically connected businessman and hundreds of other companies. 

Beyond this, the report in which Deokaran called for an urgent probe into the hospital's spending patterns was never formally escalated. Madyo received it three weeks before the murder. 

Part four | Tembisa Hospital contract factory: R500k on leather loungers and letterbox barons unmasked

Tembisa Hospital bosses splurged R500 000 on 100 leather wingback chairs – this deal just one of a surge of dubious payments flagged by Babita Deokaran before she was assassinated. 

A News24 investigation, drawing from key documents contained in thousands of Deokaran’s emails, can reveal that the East Rand hospital was turned into a contract factory. In four months, it processed more than 1 200 purchase orders worth more than R600 million.

While struggling with overcrowding, staff shortages and a dearth of funding, the hospital channelled nearly R60 million in payments to letterbox companies that exist only on paper. Twenty entities which simultaneously billed the hospital are controlled by four people. Each registered five companies on the same day and provided fake addresses when doing so. 

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