South African whistleblowers vulnerable

Gaps and deficiencies in law leave whistleblowers extremely vulnerable in South Africa
A word from Alison Tilley, Head of Advocacy & Special Projects, Open Democracy Advice Centre, South Africa

The latest PWC Global Economic Crime Survey for South Africa, released yesterday,  identifies a trend in the effectiveness of whistleblowers in reporting crime. Not surprisingly the trend is downwards – in 2007, 16% of crime was detected through  whistleblowing, and now that has dropped to 6% in 2013. The writers of the survey seem a bit puzzled about why this is, given that so many companies do actually have whistleblowing policies in place.We would suggest the answer lies in the legislative and other shortcomings in protecting whistleblowers South Africa.There are implementation gaps and deficiencies in the use and application of the existing laws which undermine the safety of whistleblowers. Those laws are themselves ineffective. This contributes to the lack of confidence in the ability of the law to protect people – ultimately contributing to the declining rates of whistleblowing in South Africa. Only 3 out of 10 South Africans believe that the law does effectively protect whistleblowers.There has been a steady decline in the number of people who describe themselves as blowing the whistle.

In 2011, 18.4% of respondents said that they had blown the whistle. This is down from 25.3% in 2007. We believe these drops in numbers of people blowing the whistle can be directly related to the perception that the law does not effectively protect whistleblower.


The Open Democracy Advice Centre is a founding member of WIN.

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