Whistleblower Mosilo Mothepu wins the 2018 IJR Reconciliation Award

The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) is delighted to announce South African whistleblower Mosilo Mothepu has won the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) 2018 Reconciliation Award on November 19th, 2018.

The Institute gives an annual Reconciliation Award to an individual, community or organisation in South Africa that has contributed, in one way or another, towards reconciliation. Through this award the Institute acknowledged and showcased the recipients’ approaches and strategies to enable reconciliation, whether they originate in the spheres of politics, media, business, culture, and academia or community service.

Mothepu served as Chief Executive Officer at Trillian Financial Advisory, a South-African consulting firm and a subsidiary of Trillian Capital. The firm was owned by Salim Essa, an associate of the powerful Gupta family, who has been accused of growing rich of its strong relationship with President Zuma. When Mothepu noticed significant and questionable activities involving state-owned entities, and in the hopes of assisting Thuli Madonsela, the former public protector (an ombudsman whose independence is guaranteed by the constitution) with her investigation, she resigned and stepped forward. Key to her disclosure were the removals of South Africa’s Finance Ministers from their posts due to the Guptas influence.

Although she feared legal consequences and defamation, she sent a statement to Madonsela, the former public protector, which published the “State of Capture” report in October 2016. The statement was leaked by an unknown source to the Sunday Times which in October 2016 published a story on state capture showing the links between the Gupta Family and President Zuma. The following year, buried under the weight of political risk and financial vulnerability, Mothepu went one step further and testified in front of South-African parliament.

PPLAAF stood by Mothepu’s side, evaluating the risks she might face after blowing the whistle, providing her with legal counsel and financial support, and assisting her with preparing herself and her testimony. PPLAAF has also promoted her case on national and international media. You can read more about Mothepu and her story on our website.

PPLAAF Director Khadija Sharife wrote a tribute for her on this occasion: Mosilo Mothepu is to South Africa what Edward Snowden is to the US - a symbol of a citizen putting themselves on the frontline to make known information in the public interest. Like Snowden, Mothepu never chose to be a whistleblower as is commonly understood by the phrase. But in the process of assisting the right platforms including former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela as well as various government and parliamentary initiatives, she became a target for a dangerous few and a hero for many others.

Raised in a Sotho family that emphasised a strong work ethic, the value of education and persistence and armed with degrees from Wits and the University of Lesotho, Mothepu valued integrity, privacy and dignity above all else. But those values were the first to be assaulted when, as CEO of Gupta-linked Trillian Financial Advisory, Mothepu witnessed and disclosed now documented improprieties that underwrote the systemic “capture” of key South African institutions.

Her efforts to expose state capture and impropriety, led to an onslaught of false criminal charges, various legal litigation and two years of unemployment. Deemed a political risk, skating on bankruptcy and unable to publicly speak to the matter for juridical reasons, Mothepu was, like Snowden, one of the loneliest people in the world.

Smaller people may have lost their balance, fallen or withdrawn from the war for the country’s soul in what could be described a night without end. Not Mothepu. Facing what was the equivalent of death by a thousand cuts, she stood and continued standing until her enemies got caught out or stepped back or ran away.

She is still standing. And finally, a new dawn is breaking.


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