Gupta Leaks whistleblowers: Traumatic, but we'd do it again
Of all of the high-profile personalities that attended Daily Maverick’s The Gathering, the most highly-anticipated speakers were a pair of unknown individuals who hid their faces.
The whistleblowers who released the now-infamous Gupta Leaks emails to a handful of media outlets told The Gathering they had left the country since the documents made the news last year.
They also didn't anticipate helping to topple the president, they said, but merely released the information because it was a matter of conscience.
The Gupta Leaks - and what was subsequently exposed - have been described as playing a role in the unseating of former president Jacob Zuma.
Investigations of the material revealed a tightly-knit network of influence, allowing the Gupta family access to state-owned companies, senior officials and some of Zuma's closest allies.
The two shadowy figures were telecast to Cape Town's International Convention Centre and spoke in digitally edited, negative transposed voices, saying they had to skip the country after the leaks.
"I think there will be a time when we can tell the world who we are. We would come back, but for now we would stay out of the country.
"Leaving home can be traumatic. It was quick and we had to get away. You sometimes think why you did it, but you know," said one of the whistle blowers.
The second whistleblower said it took a long time to decide whether to release the information they had, once they came upon it.
"It has been quite some time that I have not had a home, but I would like to come back. We did think for many months before we contacted the right people with what we had," said the other whistleblower.
'We are not political'
Asked whether they found and shared the information legally, the whistleblowers said they had received advice that their decision was legal and correct.
"Right now is not the right time to describe how the information we had originated. But we have advice that what we did was above board, legal and proper.
"That is how we decided that it was the right thing to do to release this information," they said.
The whistleblowers denied that they released the information with any political vendetta or any personal axe to grind with the individuals implicated.
"It was not done with any political objective in mind, because we are not political in any way whatsoever.
"I don't think it could be said that the former president was in our minds at the time. If he had to leave early because of it, that's fine. We are just regular South Africans," the whistleblower said.
The whistleblowers said they had no regrets about their decision and said the journalists whom they shared the information with were professional and courteous.
"We are happy that we found a way to get our information to Daily Maverick and AmaBhungane. They have treated us very well. I would say if anyone has any more information, these are the guys to go to," they said.
Asked if they would leak the reports again if given the chance to reconsider, the whistleblowers said, in spite of the challenges that came with skipping the country, they knew that they were acting in the best interests of South Africa.
"To be honest, there was a time in the past where I said to myself that I would never do this again. But there are many people who would not do what we have done.
"We wanted to play a role and provide information," one whistleblower said.