The tragedy that is Life Esidimeni will continue until justice has been done. This is by no means frivolous. Any action that brings people to account is not frivolous. Dismissing this call for accountability is frivolous.
The ANC cannot escape accountability by attacking the DA. They say we are displaying insensitivity to the families of the victims. Actually, the families of the victims of the ANC’s so-called Marathon Project will receive justice when those responsible for their loss sit in jail and not in luxury. The families of the victims will only receive some comfort when those responsible for their pain pay for their crimes, even financially where permitted by law.
The DA’s Jack Bloom tabled a motion that called upon the Premier to extract costs from Qedani Mahlangu and two officials for their part in causing the deaths of 144 people in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
The motion can be viewed here.
There is a law called the Apportionment of Damages Act. It is through that law that the taxpayers of Gauteng can recover some of the money needed to pay out compensation to those impacted by the ANC’s so-called Marathon Project. The ANC says that our motion was illegal. How can the application of law be illegal?
But it is clear that the ANC needs to shield Qedani Mahlangu. They don’t want her penalised in any way because she knows too much about the corruption of those still in office. They will protect her at all costs so that she does not blow the whistle on them.
We witnessed this yesterday in the debate on our Life Esidimeni motion as follows:
- We witnessed the worst form of heckling ever seen in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.
- One of the EFF speakers was completely inaudible because of the sustained noise coming from the ANC benches.
- The ANC heckling induced counter-heckling from the other parties.
- The Speaker took an inordinately long time to bring order and only intervened at the demand of the DA’s Chief Whip.
- But even then the Speaker chose to call to order the individual hecklers from the opposition parties and did not single out the noise-makers in the ANC.
- Eventually, she appealed to her ANC colleagues to allow the EFF speaker to speak.
- But this limp-wristed action was too much for half the ANC caucus who went off to the coffee lounge until the end of the EFF speech.
- But worse was yet to come:
- The Speaker illegally ruled out the possibility of a vote in this matter, even though this was a decision of the Programming Committee
- Clearly the ANC did not have the numbers to defeat the motion and so the Speaker aided and abetted her comrades in subverting democracy.
- Attempts to raise a point of order in this regard were met with disruption and insults
The Speaker and the ANC rejected a serious attempt to bring to justice to those impacted by Life Esidimeni and reduced the democratic proceedings to a sham. That’s why the DA protested. That’s why the DA walked out.
But we will not leave it here. We have already initiated processes to overturn the Speaker’s ruling. The guilty ones can run, but they cannot hide. If needs be, we will go to Court.
Nine patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni in 2016 have still not been found by the Gauteng Health Department.
This was revealed today by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in an oral reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
Masuku said that files of the patients had been requested from Life Esidimeni, but there were no files for 5 of the 9 missing patients.
Two of the missing patients have ID numbers, but none are registered to receive a SASSA grant. Masuku said that no photographs were available of the remaining patients and some leads were still being followed to find them.
I am pleased that progress has been made in finding more of the patients as 16 patients were missing in March this year.
More than three years have passed since the disastrous transfer of Esidimeni patients to unsuitable NGOs where 144 died in terrible circumstances.
I hope that the fate of the 9 missing patients can be discovered, otherwise they will have to be considered to be further Esidimeni fatalities.
I welcome the court judgement obtained by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) which orders two NGOs involved in the Life Esidimeni tragedy to pay back R663 275 to the Gauteng Health Department.
The High Court in Pretoria ordered the Anchor Center and the Dorothy Evangeline Franks facility to pay this money as they had continued continuing to claim payment after the psychiatric patients were removed from their care.
The SIU is furthermore pursuing civil action against another nine NGOs who submitted invoices for payments for non-existent patients.
I hope that criminal charges will also be laid against the people at these NGOs who fraudulently obtained these payments.
It highlights the administrative ineptitude of the Department as they paid over money even though they should have known that the patients had been transferred elsewhere.
I am concerned, however, at the slow progress in charging those whose criminal negligence led to 144 deaths of mental health patients in their care.
Why is it taking so long for this to get to court? The lives that were lost are surely more precious than stolen money.
The DA is continuing to press Gauteng Premier David Makhura to use the law to ensure that former Health MEC Qedani Maglangu and her top officials contribute from their own pockets towards the more than R300 million that has so far been paid in compensation to Esidimeni victims.
I am extremely concerned that there are further delays in revoking the medical licenses of the health professionals implicated in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
Dr Barney Selebano, the former Head of the Gauteng Health Department, was referred to the SA Health Professions Council (HPCSA) in December 2017, but will only appear before a disciplinary committee in September this year.
Former Mental Health Director Makgabo Manamela, her deputy Hannah Jacobus, and chairperson of the Gauteng Mental Health Review Board Dumi Masondo have been referred to the SA Nursing Council (SANC).
But SANC CEO Sizo Mchunu says there have been delays in acquiring supporting documents in order to charge them.
Both the HPCSA and the SANC can revoke a health workers’ right to practice if they are found guilty of misconduct.
The delays are unacceptable. How can those who are implicated in the deaths of patients still be professionally registered to practice medicine?
Meanwhile, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is still probing 45 criminal cases related to the Life Esidimeni tragedy, despite saying previously that this would be concluded by August last year.
All investigations must be concluded urgently so that the victims and families of the 144 people who died get the justice they so rightly deserve.
Gauteng NGOs which signed Service Level Agreements (SLA) have still not been paid by the same failing and uncaring ANC government, which still has blood-stained hands following the avoidable Esidimeni tragedy. . These agreements were signed before the Easter Weekend but to date NGOs have still not been paid.
It would appear that the late signing of SLAs is becoming the norm for the Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD). This is indicative of poor planning which is becoming detrimental to service providers and beneficiaries alike.
Despite the late signing of the SLA, NGOS are still expected to pay salaries. According to some of the NGOs I have engaged with, officials at the GDSD told the affected NGOs that they will have to wait 30 days for payment.
While this might be contractually correct, the department is not taking into consideration that it is their fault that SLAs were signed late.
Last year, the uncaring ANC-led provincial government also paid NGOs late and the excuse cited was the national social worker strike. The department has had a year to get their house in order, yet they have failed again.
This is unacceptable as during the 2018/2019 financial year, the GDSD surrendered R347 million back to treasury for failing to use its budget.
NGOs play a pivotal role in helping the most vulnerable in society who are in need of care.
I will continue to engage with the affected NGOs and will continue to put pressure on GDSD to pay NGOS on time.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the news that some of the missing Life Esidimeni patients have recently been found.
According to Gauteng Health MEC, Gwen Ramokgopa, this was particularly due to information from the Home Affairs Department as the patients were receiving social grants.
This is yet another example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
I am puzzled however, that it took more than two years to find these patients. It confirms my impression that the Gauteng Health Department has been inexcusably slack in finding all the missing patients.
Last week Ramakgopa said that the department would be going back to Life Esidimeni to check on details of the patients who had been discharged.
Why was this not done earlier?
Ramakgopa says the police have also been involved, but this only occurred after I laid missing persons charges in January last year.