Stimpel’s story shows us SA needs to treat whistleblowers better 

Am really enjoying my weekly Rational Radio show, now live at lunchtime on Wednesday. The relaxed format provides freedom rarely enjoyed by a broadcaster. It allows the guests to tell their stories without one being chivvied up by a producer needing to squeeze in an other advert.

Yesterday’s 14-minute interview with former SAA treasurer turned whistleblower Cynthia Stimpel illustrated this. Cynthia, a grandmother now in her 60s, was placed on suspension by SAA in 2016. Reason: her interventions blocked a crooked deal that would have netted former chairperson Dudu Myeni and her associates a cool R250m.

Instead of thanking its treasurer for saving the airline a much-needed quarter billion rand, SAA got rid of Stimpel, paying her six months salary as a settlement. Cynthia addressed the trauma by walking a Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and diving into yoga, which she now teaches. Along the way she also started a whistleblower support group.

Given South Africa’s skills shortage, and unquestioned courage required to be a whistleblower, you’d expect that when corporate regimes change people like Cynthia would be brought back into the fold. Not so. Her research shows whistleblowers are almost never re-recruited by former employers. Most corporates don’t like boat rockers. Even those doing good. Jarring, isn’t it?

*If you missed yesterday’s Rational Radio – you can catch the full show here.