State capture whistleblower Athol Williams leaves SA over safety concerns

Athol Williams blew the whistle on companies and individuals involved in state capture and testified before the Zondo Commission.

A screengrab of former Bain partner Athol Williams giving evidence at the state capture inquiry on 24 March 2021. Picture: SABC/YouTube

JOHANNESBURG - State capture whistleblower and author, Athol Williams, has left South Africa citing growing safety concerns that have been exacerbated by Babita Deokaran's assassination.

Williams blew the whistle on companies and individuals involved in state capture and testified before the Zondo Commission.

Deokaran, who also spoke out about the Gauteng Health Department's PPE scandal, was shot dead outside her home in the south of Joburg in August after dropping her child off at school in what was believed to have been a hit.

In a statement released on Sunday night, Williams said that he realised after Deokaran's assassination that the authorities were choosing not to protect whistleblowers.

Williams said that with no government witness protection, even after implicating 39 parties in his testimony, he had decided to leave the country for his safety.

"Knowing that my government offers me no protection after I’ve acted in the public interest is a disturbing reality. I implicated 39 parties in my testimony so threats could come from many places. After receiving warnings from trusted allies and a civil society organisation about a coordinated effort against me, I took the sad step to leave home, again without any help," Williams wrote in a statement.

"We have a very dangerous situation in South Africa where we accept the narrative that only a few bad apples are involved in state capture. The reality is that there are many important and influential people who we revere in society, who we offer awards to, who sit on boards and committees and lead grand initiatives and organisations, who are in fact enabling this capture and benefitting from it. The corrupted web stretches across our society and needs bold action to clear this out. It starts with each of us. Challenge those around you to act with conscience and with courage.

"If I remained at home there was a good chance I’d be silenced, so I left, but I will continue advocating for truth and furthering the cause of justice no matter how far from home I am. I have little left to lose now other than the love of a few. But I will not lose my resolve to resist the capture of South Africa. I look forward to the day, soon, when I can return home to continue our collective effort to realise the promise of our democracy," Williams said.

Meanwhile, Corruption Watch's David Lewis said that it was vital that the state protected whistleblowers as without them there would not be a stop to corruption in the country.

"Corruption is not the sort of crime that leaves the body behind, so you need someone who has been a witness to that crime or who heard about or who knows about it in order to combat corruption or the country will sink further into the morass of corruption, which we can very ill afford to have whistleblowers scared off in this manner."