The film industry has done us a huge disservice – Mafia bosses and charismatic gangsters are often venerated, while informants are portrayed as pathetic, weak characters. They are seldom portrayed as characters, however flawed, who may have a tinge of integrity and decency, albeit for a fee.
Admittedly, well-known informants such as “Whitey” Bulger, Joe Valachi, Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, Joseph “The Ear” Massino or Henry Hill only “co-operated” with the authorities when they either faced the death penalty or a very long prison sentence.
There are nevertheless, some whistle-blowers, whom we truly admire – Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, “Deep Throat” V Mark Felt, the FBI agent who leaked the Watergate scandal, and Sherron Watkins, who lifted the lid on Enron.
It takes great courage to be a whistle-blower. If people do not blow the whistle, whether at school, the work place, or their community, bullying, cyber bulling, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, racism, exploitation or unfair labour practices, fraud, bribery and crime will continue to increase.
The Mafia has a code of honour, Omerta, which stresses silence, non-cooperation with authorities and non-interference in the illegal activities of others. Too often individuals turn a blind-eye. We are not bound by Omerta. Unfortunately, paralysed by fear, individuals are often witness to, or subject to unacceptable practices; this enables crime, corruption, and exploitation to increase.
We need to do more to ensure that children and adults feel safe to “blow the whistle.” If you are a parent, educator, community leader, or employer, what are you doing to encourage children, adults and employees to “blow the whistle?”
The statistics below are only the tip of the iceberg:
- According to the SAPS children are victims of 41% of rapes in South Africa
- The SAPS estimates that in South Africa, a woman is raped every 36 seconds
- A Pondering Panda survey indicates that 36% of respondents (children, educators and family members) cite bullying as the biggest problem in our schools
- According to a PwC report, global survey 77% of South African organisations were victims of economic crime and fraud
You can make a difference. Spread the message that whistle blowers are courageous individuals, who stand up for justice.
We need to create our own Code of Honour and share this with our children, members of the community, employees and colleagues.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police Oath of Honour is a good starting point. I have amended this to serve as my own Code of Honour:
On my honour, I will never betray my integrity,
My character or the public trust.
I will always have the courage to hold
Myself and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold
Our Constitution, my community and my country.
What will you do today to build a safer, just and ethical South Africa?