Only whistleblowers can save SA from corruption…

That is the belief of Mzukisi Makatse, the attorney who first blew the whistle on corruption at the National Lotteries Commission – and lost his job, his car, his house, the hope of marrying the mother of his three children…In this interview with BizNews, he describes how his life imploded after he alerted his employer to an irregular R6 million lottery grant.  And he speaks of pride in being vindicated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe that eventually uncovered R1,4 billion in corrupt dealings and now has the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) going after the looters. Makastse – who has been awarded the international Blueprint Africa Whistleblowing Prize – says:  “We cannot have our own country degenerating into an abyss when we are there and we decide to keep quiet. We cannot keep quiet. Corruption has become a cancer. It has to be rooted out.”

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Highlights from the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Whistleblowers are the only ones who can save South Africa when it comes to rooting out corruption.

That is the belief of Mzukisi Makatse, the attorney who first blew the whistle on corruption at the National Lotteries Commission – and lost his job, his car, his house, the hope of marrying the mother of his three children…

In this interview with BizNews, he describes how his life imploded after he alerted his employer to an irregular R6 million lottery grant in 2017. 

And he speaks of pride with being vindicated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe that eventually uncovered R1,4 billion in corrupt dealings, and now has the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) going after the looters.

Makastse has been awarded the international Blueprint Africa Whistleblowing Prize.

Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

Reporting corruption & facing the dire consequences:

“…I was in fact told to move on and approve a legal payment to this organisation despite this crucial irregularity in terms of what the law required.  And I refused to do that. And the next day, I was put on suspension for refusing to carry out that instruction because I felt that that was an illegal instruction to carry out because the law was clear in terms of what was required for one to be funded by the National Lotteries Commission. And I had to refuse that, not only on the basis of the law, but also on the basis of what is right and what needs to be done. And literally the next morning I was…given a notice of suspension…I must go home. And they had security in tow… marching me out of the office.

“And that was the last time I ever set foot in the National Lotteries Commission, except when I came back for a disciplinary hearing that took place somewhere in December (2017) and continued until I got dismissed even before it finished…

“…obviously I lost income. I couldn’t pay – the important thing for me was my kids – their school fees, their general welfare. I was unable to do that…I couldn’t keep up with the car payments. It had to be repossessed…I lost my home. I couldn’t…pay rent. I was literally thrown onto the streets. And my relationship with the mother of  kids suffered. We were staying together. We were bound to get married. That also fell by the wayside. 

“Generally I was affected in all aspects of my life that you can possibly think of. And I went into deep depression…”

Being vindicated:

“…over and above what I had discovered and disclosed, there was much that I had seen, how contracts were being signed, contracts between the National Lotteries Commission and other service providers from the outside.

“Now that I see the SIU uncovering all of these, it really makes one proud of what he has done in trying to draw the attention to all of these type of similarities that were taking place within the National Lotteries Commission.”

Read more: Powerful people are using State money to silence us – whistleblower Lehloma Ramajoe

How a criminal enterprise was able to operate in the NLC:

“The first level was the general state of our country at the time, with all the issues around State Capture.

“I think the environment enabled them at a national level. It enabled them to be able to continue with what they did without any attention being thrown to them. 

“The second level was that it was easy for them to manipulate systems and the legal instruments within the National Lotteries Commission because there wasn’t much oversight that was being done by Parliament on what was happening within the National Lotteries Commission. 

“Hence, they were able to come up with a legislation or a legislative amendment that brought about what was called proactive funding. This was an amendment that took place in 2015 that said you could be able to just identify an organisation and fund it without that organisation applying for funding.

“And then they got to be funded by millions of rands, which got to be diverted to certain individuals and companies owned by people not even connected to the organisations that were being hijacked and organisations that were just being created for purposes of this proactive funding process. 

“Because the systems were so much manipulated that the National Lotteries Commission was able to get clean audits for many years in a row without these irregularities being picked up.”

Receiving an international prize for his whistleblowing: 

“I do feel humbled by the recognition of the kind of sacrifices that whistleblowers are able to make so that the public resources are not treated nearly as your own house budget, which is what has been happening if you look at how public expenditure has been treated by so many within the public service.

“…it really makes one humble and proud of the kind of work that I have put into the whistleblowing, ensuring that the National Lotteries Commission is turned around, that a new executive is appointed, a new board is appointed. 

“I think that in itself is an indication that even though it may take some time, but at least it does eventually make sense that what you do is important and what you do is something to be celebrated and something that needs to be recognised. 

“And I think it should be able to encourage many other whistleblowers to be able to continue doing the kind of work that we do…eventually, this country will only be saved by whistleblowers when it comes to corruption. Because before, state agencies like your SAPS, your SIUs, your Hawks, and any other law enforcement agent, your NPA, before they can be kicked in, there has to be someone who reports the wrong way. And whistleblowers are better positioned to be able to ensure that we bring this information before the authorities and then something is being done about it. Therefore, there is that crucial element that has to be played by the whistleblowers.

“We cannot have our own country degenerating into an abyss when we are there and we decide to keep quiet. We cannot keep quiet. Corruption has become a cancer. It has to be rooted out.”

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