‘Your life has value even when it is taken away from you’: Ian Gabriel, on ‘Death of a Whistleblower’

Asha Bajaj
5 min readSep 22, 2023
Death of a Whistleblower. Image credit: TIFF

Directed by Ian Gabriel, executive produced by Joel Chikapa Phiri, and others in South Africa in 2023 in English, the film ‘Death of a Whistleblower’ a high-energy political thriller highlighting a decades-long national crisis of whistleblower assassinations, was world-premiered in Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2023). The film showcases the devastating risks faced by South African whistleblowers in their struggle over state capture and the sheer power of principled speech. Asha Bajaj, IBNS-TWF correspondent in conversation with Ian Gabriel discusses the various features of this film.

Following is the extract of the interview:

To Ian Gabriel: Working in a theatre with legends of South Africa’s jazz and theatre scene, what motivated you to become a human rights activist?

Ian Gilbert. Image credit: TIFF 2023

A. To be born in South Africa defines you to be interested in human rights. My family actually originated in India. My grandmother came from Syria and she worked in a Sugar cane factory and was the head of the family, My grandfather became a colonial born Indian lawyer. Our family was able to elevate itself while dealing with South African officials at the same time. All our family believed in human rights activism as a natural thing and I could not imagine not being inclined to that,

Q. Did you face any challenges while working with human activist icon Nelson Mandela?

A. The challenges such as the threat to what would happen at that time, and the possibility of a rift were always there. I was involved in a protest march, was jailed for a while and then it all changed. This story that I tell was in the start of the 80s. It is about a young girl. Something terrible happens to her. The element of the story is that her story was not told even once…



Asha Bajaj

I write on national and international Health, Politics, Business, Education, Environment, Biodiversity, Science, First Nations, Humanitarian, gender, women