A Life Taken Too Soon: Our Tribute to Samoo Chetty

When Soonthra ‘Samoo’ Chetty's murder case was brought to our attention, a quip by an old friend came to mind; “What is wrong with people!” The corruption link emerged soon after we started looking into the circumstances surrounding the murder. Until contrary evidence is provided, I maintain that Chetty’s murder was related to corruption.

Many public officials do not understand or dismiss the consequences of corruption. When funds are lost through graft, officials are quick to say it's 'state’s money'. Some even insinuate corrupt practices do not hurt anybody. And that is the problem. It is time we learned to appreciate that public funds belong to all of us and that we all have a responsibility to protect the funds. Public officials are mere custodians of our funds. The mandate they hold over such funds is not a right.

When architect Raj Maharaj recklessly claimed and got paid nearly 25% of a contract value (as opposed to the recommended 3.1%) and systematically plays god with money owed to contractors, tough questions must be asked. Samoo may have died waiting for answers, but his work lives on. We will continue echoing the questions on his behalf.

Samoo Chetty, he had so much to live for.

This is the motivation behind our decision to publish one of his many letters to the provincial office of the Public Protector. He may have been killed by a knife but his statement, which was written a few months before his murder, must live on. There is much that can be deduced from the letter and several others in our possession.

Having had the privilege of seeing the drafts of the final letters he dispatched to various state agencies and departments, I have gained insight into his state of mind in the months leading to his murder. In his final days, he was broken by a rotten and corrupt system.

We were also surprised to learn that the Eastern Cape’s head of Human Settlement Department was not cooperating with the Provincial Office of the Public Protector. Didn’t they read the Constitutional Court judgment on the importance of the Office of the Public Protector?

As we have revealed in the report (Tenders, Corruption and Murder) officials at the provincial office of the public protector did not ask any questions. They simply passed on the late Chetty’s entire statements to the various people he had accused of underhand deals. This brings me to the person of Advocate Thuli Madonsela.

The firebrand individual has been involved in numerous cases, most of which she has prevailed on behalf of the public. Her term is ending in late October. She recently told EWN that she has 'full confidence' in the team she will leave in place. I beg to disagree. Things may be great at head office in Pretoria, but not so much at provincial level where performances are below par.

Numerous cases have been brought to our attention showing instances where officials in provincial offices failed to understand the gist of complaints laid before them. Take Chetty's complaints filed with the Eastern Cape office. What kind of an investigator forwards a possible victims’ entire statement to the alleged perpetrators for comment or response? Is there any wonder that Chetty got killed just a few months after he declined to accept the Municipality’s hogwash response to the Public Protector’s office in Bisho? 

My humble request to Adv. Madonsela is she takes time between now and end of October re-examine Chetty’s case. He was after all part of the public that deserves protection from this esteemed Office. All that the family is asking for is closure.

Adv. Madonsela should go a step further and establish why the three men who allegedly killed Chetty and left his niece paralysed were allowed to evade justice. Nobody can even identify them. Hence the question, where did the police get the information that the criminals were disgruntled former employees?

Next time a politician says corruption doesn’t hurt the poor, please think of the late Soonthra ‘Samoo’ Chetty. Think of his workers who have not been paid. Think of his wife, daughters and the thousands of families who lack housing because of a few corrupt public officials and hand-picked consultants.