ANC: Still no consequences for Qedani Mahlangu over Life Esidimeni

2018-06-16 12:26
Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu testifies during the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings. (Alet Pretorius, Gallo Images, file)

Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu testifies during the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings. (Alet Pretorius, Gallo Images, file)

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More than a year after the ANC in Gauteng announced that disgraced former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu would face the party's integrity commission for her role in the Life Esidimeni tragedy the process is yet to be concluded. 

The ANC announced in February 2017 that Mahlangu would be hauled before the commission after the Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba announced that more than 100 psychiatric patients died when they were transferred from Life Esidimeni to unlicensed NGOs. 

The ANC again said she would face "internal accountability within the party" in March this year after a damning finding by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke that the decision to move the psychiatric patients was "irrational and unconstitutional".

At least 144 patients were confirmed dead but more deaths have since been discovered. 

In an interview with News24, acting ANC chairperson Premier David Makhura defended the 14-month long wait for the commission to conclude its work.  

"ANC processes are still underway," he said.

Mahlangu still member of decision-making body

The ANC in Gauteng has been praised for establishing the integrity commission long before the national body resolved to do so.

The commission was established to allow the ANC to act against members who damage the party's integrity, without waiting for the conclusion of criminal investigations. 

When asked why there have been no consequences against Mahlangu yet, in what is seen as the worst tragedy in democratic South Africa, Makhura said: "We have never dodged issues in this province."

Mahlangu remains a member of the provincial executive committee (PEC), which is the highest decision-making body in the party's Gauteng branch.

In March, she made a surprise appearance alongside President Cyril Ramaphosa and Makhura during one of the president's "lifestyle walks" in Soweto. 

When asked if it was not insensitive to the victims for Mahlangu to publicly walk with him, Ramaphosa responded: "She is a comrade and whatever we have done, it does not mean we have to treat people with hatred and rejection and with total disdain. She is just a human being like we are."

This week, the Gauteng government paid out R159 460 000 to the relatives of the victims of the tragedy.

Systems in place to prevent similar incidents

The ANC in the province confirmed the case was still being processed. 

"Just like the provincial disciplinary committee, the PEC does not pressurise or dictate to the integrity committee how and when to deal with matters referred to them. Once they complete any matter they will announce the outcome," provincial spokesperson Motaletale Modiba said.

Makhura said Mahlangu had led a "suicide mission" and he had since put systems in place to ensure that something as "disastrous" as the tragedy did not happen again. 

He said the lessons learnt included that he must have systems in place across all departments to ensure that he knows about all major decisions. He now holds standing meetings with MECs and heads of departments, making him even more hands on, including on issues that were previously delegated to MECs and heads of department.

Makhura said some MECs felt that he was not giving them space to do their work but he has assured them it is for "their own good".

"Now when something happens in their department they will be able to say the premier knew about it because we brought it to him in our six-week cycle meeting and this is the feedback he gave us," he said. 

Makhura has faced calls to step down over the Life Esidimeni tragedy as he was the premier in charge when it happened.

"I accept that holding public office comes with responsibility and officials must be held accountable. It's not a vendetta against me. Those who criticise me are making me a better person," he said. 

Read more on:    anc  |  david makhura  |  qedani mahlangu  |  gauteng  |  life esidimeni

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