Sygnia co-founder and CEO Magda Wierzycka said South Africa spends around R2 billion per annum to protect 280 government officials – money that could be used to protect whistleblowers.
This R2 billion goes towards protection for South Africa’s ministers, deputy ministers, parliamentary speakers, and 124 provincial dignitaries, including premiers and 87 MECs.
Wierzycka told The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield that spending this money to protect government officials is “absurd” and “highly questionable”.
“If you just cut the budget in half, you would have about R1 billion to protect people who are trying – in their own, individual capacity – to protect South Africa.”
Cloete and Thomas Murray
Wierzycka’s comments come in light of the murders of insolvency practitioner Cloete Murray and his son, Thomas Murray.
News24 recently reported that the Murrays were killed while driving together on the N1 North in what is presumed to have been a drive-by shooting.
Both Cloete and Thomas were shot while in their car. Thomas was declared dead on the scene, and Cloete passed away in the hospital after being placed on life support.
Cloete was well-known for his work on the liquidation of Bosasa, a company that was implicated in numerous government scandals. He also worked as a business rescue practitioner for a firm linked to the infamous Gupta brothers.
Thomas was a legal practitioner who worked at his father’s firm, Secheba Trust.
At this time, it is still unclear whether the Murrays’ deaths are linked to their work on these cases.
However, Wierzycka told Whitfield that the killers were likely hired hitmen.
“That is a terrifying thought that you can just hire a hitman in South Africa for probably a negligible amount of money,” she said.
The Murrays’ deaths have sent a shockwave through the legal and insolvency sectors. Many worried that their murders could have a chilling effect that would cause curators and liquidators to avoid corruption cases.
Wierzycka’s corruption-fighting background
Wierzycka has her own history of receiving death threats and needing private protection.
In 2017, Wierzycka was closely linked to the Gupta Leaks – a trove of emails which exposed evidence of Gupta corruption.
This led to news of the relationships between the Guptas’ business empire, government officials and private companies becoming public knowledge.
Her involvement in the Gupta leaks and speaking out against corruption resulted in death threats and forced her to hire private protection. She also left the country from time to time.
Wierzycka explained that cases like the Murrays show that people are not afraid of South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority.
Rather, people do not want to be exposed in the media, and “consequently, given how cheap it is, they are resorting to whatever means possible to keep things quiet”.
One of the reasons South Africa was greylisted earlier this year was the country’s lack of visible prosecutions for corruption, despite the work conducted and information revealed by the Zondo commission.
This, combined with the inability of the police to handle high-level cases effectively, means criminals in South Africa do not fear prosecution, she said.