Whistleblowers Given Prime Time at Time of the Writer Festival’s Dinner Conversations
The 25th edition of UKZN’s Time of the Writer festival will bring together some of the brightest minds who have written books on state capture, corruption, and a failed insurrection in South Africa.
Appropriately billed Dinner Conversations the series will kick off with radio journalist Ms Michelle Constant talking to Mr Jonathan Ancer and Mr Chris Whitfield about their book Joining the Dots: An unauthorised biography of Pravin Gordhan, an in-depth, insightful, and gripping read about a man who found the courage to stand up to the dark forces of state capture. Constant will also chat to Mr Athol Williams (Deep Collusion), Mr Themba Maseko (For my country), Ms Mosilo Mothepu (Uncaptured) and Ms Cynthia Stimpel (Hijackers on Board).
Deep Collusion uncovers the inner workings of state capture design and the after-hours, behind-closed-doors planning that took place. It highlights the lonely burden of the whistle-blower and the tremendous personal cost of telling the truth in the face of overwhelming pressure.
Maseko’s For my country shows what it takes to stand true to one’s principles. In 2010, government spokesperson Maseko was called to the Gupta family’s Saxonwold compound and asked by Ajay Gupta to divert the government’s entire advertising budget to the family’s media company. When Maseko refused to do so, he was removed from his position and forced to leave the public service. He was ostracised, slandered, and even threatened for this courageous act of whistleblowing.
When Stimpel was appointed Group Treasurer of South African Airways (SAA), she thought she had found her dream job and that she would be there for years. Her book Hijackers on Board is a very personal state capture story that shows how the bravery of one individual can change the course of history. Despite knowing that she might jeopardise her job and her family’s finances, Stimpel did not hesitate to tip-off Treasury and blow the whistle, saving the taxpayer R256-million.
Mothepu’s Uncaptured recounts her whistleblowing in the Negate / Troillian saga. Facing criminal charges and bankruptcy, unemployed and deemed a political risk, Mothepu experienced the loneliness of whistleblowing first-hand. She tells her story in the hope that others who find themselves in a similar situation will follow in her footsteps and speak truth to power.
Centre for Creative Arts’ (CCA) Director Dr Ismail Mahomed said, ‘In the face of so much political betrayal in our fragile democracy, these whistle-blowers, who put their lives and careers at stake for the sake of the country, are our new heroes. At the Time of the Writer, we wish to honour them and allow our followers to get to know them.’
Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela