Dear courageous brothers and sisters
We, bishops of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, gathered in plenary from 14-18 August 2023, felt compelled to send a message of gratitude and support to you, honest South Africans, also known as whistleblowers.
Like John the Baptist (cf. Mark. 6:17-29), you tell the truth even at the expense of your convenience and life in the interest of the common good. We assure you of our continued solidarity and prayers. For their information and action about your plight, we are also sending this letter to the relevant political leaders, appropriate government offices and civil bodies that concern themselves with your cause.
We applaud you for the gift of courage and self–sacrifice as whistleblowers. Your example of sacrificing self–interests and comfort for the sake of the common good is something our country currently needs in abundance. We are confident that “the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
We gratefully acknowledge your contribution to the disclosure of corruption in government departments, municipalities and state–owned companies heard by the Zondo Commission. Successful prosecution in cases of corruption has often been made possible through your contribution as whistle–blowers. You are a threat to those whose god has become their stomachs and are doing their best to let corruption define the character of our country. Thank you for standing up against them.
We know of your hardships as whistleblowers, how some of you have experienced harassment, recrimination, and dismissal and how some of you continue to suffer financial and emotional stress after exposing corruption. We know of those who have been killed, leaving behind families in pain and with unanswered questions, particularly when the state fails to prosecute those who killed them. The heavy price that you are paying is not going unnoticed, and it is not in vain. Thanks to your courage, society is waking up to the evil of corruption and is opposing it.
In solidarity with you, we welcome the contemplated legal reforms and the proposals of civil society, including broadening the definition of a whistleblower in terms of the protected disclosure Act of 2000, criminalising retribution against a whistleblower, the inclusion of whistleblowers under witness protection mechanisms, the provision of specialised courts for whistleblowing cases, the provision of legal aid and creation of funding to cover the legal costs of whistleblowers. We appeal to the Justice Department to find a way to protect whistleblowers in the interim while the laws are being reviewed.
We stand with whistleblowers who have raised concerns about the delays being made by the National Prosecution Authority in holding to account the people and the businesses that the Zondo Commission recommended for prosecution. The sacrifices made by the whistleblowers should not be in vain. Justice must be seen to be done. It has been delayed for long enough.
Our hope and prayer are that the proposed legal reforms on whistleblowers recently released by the Department of Justice will soon translate into effective action for improved safety and protection of whistleblowers. Together with Prophet Amos and in solidarity with the whistleblowers, we cry out in prayer: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never–failing stream” (Amos 5:24).
Sincerely yours in the Lord, on behalf of all the bishops.
+Sithembele Sipuka SACBC President