Johannesburg – Western Cape Premier Helen Zille's habit of writing controversial tweets continued on Tuesday when she tweeted about the families of the Life Esidimeni victims.
Zille tweeted on Tuesday: "It is good that the families of the Life Esidimeni victims have received a measure of justice and compensation. I would like an answer to this question: What did they do, before these tragic deaths, to raise the alarm about their loved ones starving + living in profound neglect?"
Section 27, which represented 63 families, described Zille's comments as regrettable, saying that the premier's question was answered at length through testimonies during the arbitration process as well as through personal stories reported on by the media.
"All of this information is in the public domain and readily available," Section 27's senior communications officer Ngqabutho Mpofu said.
"We also sincerely hope she will prioritise the provision of access to quality mental healthcare services in the Cape and learn from the Life Esidimeni marathon project," he said.
Zille's comments came despite testimony from family members including Reverend Joseph Maboe, 80, whose son Billy was moved from a Life Esidimeni facility without his knowledge, and Monomong Welheminah Thejane, whose brother Daniel Charles Josiah, also passed away after he was moved without the family being notified.
Maboe testified at the hearings that once while there to visit his son he saw people being loaded onto trucks and when he returned a month later his son was gone.
"I saw two big trucks loading people [in May 2016]. They were so confused, the poor people. Some of them were crying, some were in wheelchairs," Maboe said.
"They were so confused. They were like goats or sheep at an auction," he said.
He testified that he went back in June to find his son was no longer there, and Life Esidimeni had been replaced by a different facility.
"I became very worried," he said. "I prayed every day, I scouted around. We were haunted [not knowing where Billy was]."
Thejane, whose brother Daniel was also moved without the family's knowledge, testified during the arbitration hearings that after tracking her brother down, following his move from Life Esidimeni, she found him in a bad state of health.
"He did not even have his file from Esidimeni, he did not have his ID, they did not know anything about his medical history," she said through an interpreter.
The DA's national spokesperson, Refiloe Nt'sekhe, told News24 that Zille's tweet was "unfortunate", inappropriate" and "inefficient".
"It's an unfortunate tweet considering the DA has been fighting through Jack Bloom for the rights of the victims and families. The DA finds the statement inappropriate and inefficient."