Slow progress with Esidimeni inquest

The Democratic Alliance notes that Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola has acceded to the NPA’s request for a joint hearing into the Life Esidimeni deaths and requested the Judge President on 28 January 2020 to designate a judge to preside over the inquest in the high court of Pretoria.

This is nearly five months after the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Batohi submitted a request to Minister Lamola to approach the JP’s office to appoint a presiding officer to preside over the inquest.

I am concerned by the slow progress in getting justice for the 144 former Esidimeni patients who died in unsuitable NGOs, and for others who suffered as well.

It is now three years since Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba released his devastating report on the deaths, but not a single person has been criminally prosecuted.

Court action has seen three NGOs ordered to pay back about R1.3 million for Esidimeni patients they wrongly claimed for, and similar action is pending against eight other NGOs. But these are all civil actions, and justice for lives lost is more important than recovery of money which will probably be minimal as I suspect these NGOs will go bankrupt and be unable to pay.

It is disappointing that the Provincial Government refuses to use the Apportionment of Damages Act to ensure that former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and her top officials pay from their own pockets towards the more than R300 million paid out to Esidimeni victims.

All the perpetrators need to appear in court as soon as possible to face a range of charges including murder, culpable homicide, fraud and contraventions of the Mental Health Act.