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
'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.
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.
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.
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.
Love me tender: How husband and wife bagged R30m in Tembisa Hospital contracts
A part-time call centre agent and her sound engineer husband landed Tembisa Hospital contracts worth nearly R30 million in the space of a month - part of a mammoth extraction network uncovered by murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran.
Christine and Avikash Signarian each control five companies that saw a flurry of trade from the hospital, contracted to provide everything from ventilators to ICU beds.
Seventy payments to entities they own are among more than a thousand "possibly fraudulent" transactions flagged by Deokaran three weeks before she was assassinated. Her call for a forensic probe into the hospital’s buying patterns were ignored and payments worth R850 million are yet to be fully examined.
Under fire Tembisa hospital boss calls on ANC connections over News24 investigation
The Tembisa Hospital CEO, responsible for approving millions of rand in dodgy payments flagged by Babita Deokaran, has roped in his ANC connections because "he is struggling with News24".
This publication was contacted by a member of the ANC’s communications team on Tuesday to set up a meeting with hospital boss Ashley Mthunzi, after Mthunzi asked the convenor of the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum to intercede on his behalf.
The overtures by ANC operatives came despite various requests for comment to Mthunzi on what Deokaran found at Tembisa Hospital. These requests have however gone unanswered.
Tembisa Hospital’s R500 000 skinny jean spending spree... and the soccer star who scored
Tembisa Hospital bosses splurged R500 000 on a shipment of skinny jeans – purchased while South Africa was in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic and just weeks before a third wave strained medical facilities to breaking point.
The payment for 200 pairs of denims - for girls aged between 6 and 7 – was flagged by Babita Deokaran alongside thousands of other transactions out of the East Rand hospital worth more than R850 million. She was assassinated three weeks later.
The jeans contract was awarded to an obscure company named Inez Chaste - one of 10 separate business entities controlled by retired soccer star Themba Shabalala and his wife Evelyn.
'We've heard nothing' from cops - Babita Deokaran's family as SIU investigation moves forward
The family of murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran has heard "nothing" from the police or investigating officer about the status of the investigation into the mastermind of her assassination.
"We have heard nothing from them… not once have they called us. The last time we were contacted by the investigating team was right after the incident," Deokaran's brother, Rakesh, said.
Tembisa Hospital splurge exposed: leather loungers, skinny jeans, and R10 000 for a bucket
Four members of the Mazibuko clan control 17 separate entities that were flagged by whistleblower Babita Deokaran – three weeks before her murder – in a report that raised alarm over R850 million in "possibly fraudulent" payments out of the hospital.
A News24 investigation based on a trove of Gauteng health department e-mails can reveal that the family established a dynasty providing medical equipment and supplies to several health facilities in the province. But it was the Tembisa Hospital supply chain management office that delivered their heyday.
On 8 February 2021, two payments of R19 600 were processed for "bucket heavy duty 12.5l plastic (sic)". The hospital bought two in red and two in blue, and paid nearly 5 000% of the price it should have paid.
Inside ANC bigwig's R15m Tembisa Hospital payday
ANC Ekurhuleni boss Sello Sekhokho sold groceries, office supplies and medical equipment to Tembisa Hospital in a state-business boom worth nearly R15 million in three years.
Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi - in response to questions posed by the DA's Jack Bloom - last week disclosed three little-known companies controlled by Sekhokho received 55 individual payments routed through the hospital.
Hawks circle over R30m Tembisa Hospital tender twosome
A married couple who scored R30 million in shady Tembisa Hospital payments now face a Hawks fraud investigation for the illegal trade of high-tech medical equipment.
Four companies controlled by part-time call centre agent Christine Signarian and her sound engineer husband Avikash - who sold everything from electrosurgical pens to ICU beds without a licence – fell into the crosshairs of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).
'Don of Tembisa' received millions in payments, bought Bantry Bay and Sandton mansions
Babita Deokaran red-flagged R36 million in Tembisa Hospital payments bound for companies linked to Hangwani Morgan Maumela, a high-flying tender tycoon whose property portfolio stretches from Bantry Bay to Sandton.
Twelve firms in his family network are among hundreds behind a dubious R850-million hospital buying spree that Deokaran reported to Gauteng health department bosses. She raised fears that stopping payments could place her life in danger. She was assassinated three weeks later.
Impeccable sources inside the health department described Maumela as "the don" of Tembisa Hospital, who held sway with management and had direct access to its procurement office.
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