Why we walked out of the Life Esidimeni debate – DA

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.

Former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and officials implicated in Life Esidimeni tragedy should be made to pay compensations to the victims’ families

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered by the DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health , Jack Bloom MPL during the DA’s motion in the Gauteng Legislature, today , 3 December 2019.

Madam Speaker, the purpose of this motion is to ensure that there is serious consideration of the option of recovering money from those most responsible for the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

More than a year ago the Honourable Premier said in this House that he was consulting with stakeholders and legal advisers, including the Department of Justice, on whether former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and senior health officials can be forced to pay for the compensation costs.

This House needs to know what the outcome of this consultation and what steps will be done to take this forward.

The first legal step is to make the Arbitration Award of Justice Dikgang Moseneke an order of the court so that the Apportionment of Damages Act can be used. There is then a one-year prescription period for action to be taken under this Act.

I don’t know why the provincial government has been dragging its heels in this matter. I hope it’s not to protect Qedani Mahlangu who was still popular enough in the ANC to get elected last year to the Provincial Executive Committee.

The Special Investigating Unit has led the way in getting a court order for two NGOs to pay back R663 000 to the Gauteng Health Department as they had fraudulently claimed this for patients who had already been removed from them.

They are also pursuing civil action against another 11 NGOs who submitted fraudulent invoices for payments of about R5.5 million.

I have to ask, however, why the people who were most to blame for the loss of 144 lives have not faced any court action whatsoever.

Investigations are taking far too long as people want to see accountability and justice.

It would be ideal to use the Apportionment of Damages Act in this matter, and we have legal opinion that it can be done.

It would be a very good precedent to hold errant officials personally liable. Why should they be allowed to leave with their pensions intact and the state has to pay for their misdeeds?

In fact, the Department has already indicated in a recent presentation to SCOPA that they intend to use the Apportionment of Damages Act to recover money from medical staff implicated in medical negligence cases.

So, we should really all be in agreement on this motion.

The Honourable Premier has talked about good governance and accountability. The Esidimeni horrors happened under his watch, so there is added reason to make sure that those responsible pay in every way, both financially and in jail time.

It is unfortunate that we are still far away from criminal charges against all those implicated in the deaths and other infractions with criminal liability.

Meanwhile, we can make progress for civil liability, not just against the NGOs but against the former Health MEC and her senior officials.

This is a test case. Accept this motion and come back to this House within 60 days or reject it because you still want to protect one of your comrades.

It is your duty for moral, legal and good governance reasons to support this motion.

9 Esidimeni patients still missing

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.

ANC refuses to answer on Esidimeni, violent crime and e-tolls

The Democratic Alliance (DA) condemns the ANC in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature who refused to give account today in respect of Life Esidimeni, violent crime and e-tolls.

The DA had tabled two motions to be debated, one motion was on the payment of compensation to the families of the victims of the Life Esidimeni and the second motion on violent crime in Gauteng’s rural communities.

We had also tabled an oral e-toll question to the Premier with regards to the progress in terms of the work done so far by the inter-ministerial task team on e-tolls.

These two motions were meant to be debated on 3 September 2019 however, the sitting was cancelled due to the violence and looting that was taking place in the Joburg CBD.

It was communicated that the programme of that Sitting will be moved to the next Sitting date which is today.

Instead of continuing with the programme as planned, the ANC decided to postpone our motions and oral question to the Premier saying that today’s Sitting clashes with the NCOP week.

This is just another delay tactic by the ANC which is dodging accountability on the most crucial issues that are affecting our residents.

Our people deserve to know the future of e-tolls, why the people who were most to blame for the loss of 144 lives have not faced any punitive action whatsoever, as well as how this government plans to tackle violent crime.

We will ensure that the Gauteng Legislature performs its function of holding the executive to account and through the legislative mechanisms at our disposal these important issues will not fall off the people’s agenda.

DA welcomes money payback by Esidimeni NGOs

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.

Relatives dissatisfied over Esidimeni payouts

Relatives of Life Esidimeni patients who survived the botched transfer to NGOs are dissatisfied that not all compensation claims have been paid and those that have been paid have only received 50% of the stipulated amount of R1 180 000.

In terms of the Master of the Court process it has been determined that 50% (R590 000) should be paid to the relatives and the other 50% into a trust to be administered for the benefit of the patient.

About 300 families represented by the Life Esidimeni Tragedy Committee (LETG) accuse the Gauteng Premier’s Office of breaking an agreement with them not to put the money into a trust.

They say that they should have a role in administering the money as they have looked after the interests of their loved ones all these years.

Last week Phindile Baleni, Director-General in the Premier’s Office, said that R60 million had been paid so far to relatives out of R300 million that had been budgeted.

This is slow progress as they had been promised that all payments would be done in December last year.

The LETG is planning on a petition and also to go to the Public Protector over this issue. They are suspicious that the money will end up with the hospital groups that currently look after the surviving Esidimeni patients.

Also aggrieved are those who have been told they won’t be paid even though their relatives died over the period covered by Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s compensation award.

I am disappointed at the slow payments and the continuing disputes which could have been avoided with proper consultation and sensitivity.

The Premier’s Office should engage honestly with the families to resolve all problems speedily so that there is proper recompense for all concerned.

We need to end the continuing nightmare of the Esidimeni tragedy.

Esidimeni doctor and nurses still free to practice

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.

DA GP Premier Candidate Solly Msimanga unveils mobile Esidimeni billboard

Today, l unveiled a mobile Life Esidimeni billboard to expose how the ANC-led Gauteng government under Premier David Makhura has killed our people.

Please click here to watch the video.

For far too long , I have been challenging Premier Makhura to debate me on serious issues affecting the people of Gauteng.

The people of Gauteng have a right to hear both leading candidates’ positions on these issues so that they can make an informed choice on election day.

Debates are a standard element of any democratic election, and Makhura’s refusal to debate is not only arrogant, it is also un-democratic.

I want to hear from Premier Makhura as to why victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy have not yet been compensated, and why the perpetrators have not been prosecuted.

Specifically , I want to know what the Premier’s role was in making the decision to shut down Life Esidimeni which lead to 144 deaths, and if he agrees with President Ramaphosa’s statement about Qedani Mahlangu , the ANC Gauteng Health MEC that she is “once a comrade, always a comrade”?

Below are stills from the video:

The people of Gauteng also deserve to know if Premier Makhura believes it appropriate to hire party members, pay cash bribes or provide sexual favours in exchange for EPWP jobs.

I would further also like to hear if David Makhura believes that the current e-toll regime is working well, and if he believes it makes sense to have a e-toll regime that sends 80% of revenue to a foreign company that administers the system.

These are important issues, and the people of Gauteng have a democratic right to hear from their elected officials and candidates on their respective positions. I call on Premier Makhura to agree to a one-on-one debate with me before the election on the 8th of May.

Another Esidimeni looming: Gauteng Department of Social Development fails to pay NGOs

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.

Esidimeni patients could’ve been found sooner, with political will

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.