- Gabriella Razzano
On 15 March 2016 Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas let the world know that the Gupta family had “offered” him the job of Minister of Finance. He stated then: "I rejected this out of hand. The basis of my rejection of their offer is that it makes a mockery of our hard earned democracy, the trust of our people and no one apart from the President of the Republic appoints ministers”.
During the cloak of night on 30 March 2017 revenge has been exacted: Jonas was axed as Deputy Minister by President Jacob Zuma, and his future appears uncertain. At ODAC, we have spent fifteen years trying to protect South African whistleblowers, and we speak from experience when we note that this kind of action forms a pattern of delayed yet consistent occupational detriment in the face of disclosure many whistleblowers suffer. The unfair abuse of whistleblowers can extend well past the time of their disclosure – which is why the justified and public support of whistleblowers by rights-thinking people is so important.
Whistleblowers are a vital vehicle of access to information for citizens in the face of state capture and corruption. As Pravin Gordhan noted at a press conference held today to discuss their joint dismissal: “Our souls are not for sale” – but in a world where corruption can be a knee jerk response of those in power, the voice of whistleblowers become even more important.
The impact of Jonas’ disclosure though will live forever. By being open, and providing citizens with access to vital information about the state of South Africa’s government, he contributed to changing the very way we spoke and understood the reality of state capture in South Africa.
We will continue to stand for the rights of whistleblowers such as Mcebisi Jonas – we hope people are inspired by his bravery, rather than disconcerted by the detriment meted out against him as an act of retribution.