Those responsible for playing a role in the deaths of 143 Life Esidimeni patients with mental disabilities must be criminally prosecuted to ensure such a tragedy does not happen again, the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities has said.
“The MEC must be held criminally responsible, including a whole range of others in other the ranks,” the council’s national director Therina Wentzel said.
“If you don’t use the MEC in holding her to account – where will it end?”
Wentzel was reacting to the Life Esidimeni hearings taking place this week, which seeks to find justice for the dead and their families.
Over 1 700 patients were transferred from the Life Esidimeni facility to hospitals and 27 NGOs operating unlawfully. These facilities have been largely blamed after patients were greatly neglected.
“If there is anyone else who was treated this way, there would be prosecutions already. Why are disabled people seen as lesser citizens? This [issue] is not treated with the urgency it deserves,” Wentzel said.
She charged that while government was quick to lay blame on NGOs, it failed to provide adequate funding to the facilities.
“Imagine that for a severely disabled person, more than R5 000 is needed. You may get R2 000 from government, if you’re lucky, and this is only for a [small] percentage of people. Is this government support?”
Wentzel claimed some people were still living in such poor conditions.
Yesterday Gauteng director of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela told the hearing former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and Dr Tiego Selebano gave her instructions to move patients. Manamela was implicated after health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba released a report on the deaths of the patients.
Retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke had asked Manamela who gave the instruction. After some dithering, she responded: “It was MEC Mahlangu and Dr Selebano.”
Manamela was in charge of issuing licences to the NGOs and said she only knew of one operating without a licence.
“How many people died at Takalani after you issued a licence?” Moseneke asked. “I don’t know,” Manamela responded.
A total of 38 patients died at Takalani. Evidence also suggested Manamela transferred 200 patients to Takalani which only has capacity to handle 40.
The hearing continues.
– Additional reporting African News Agency (ANA)