DA calls for judicial inquiry into Esidimeni deaths

2017-02-16 15:29
DA leader Mmusi Maimane and shadow minister for health Dr Wilmot James to call for judicial inquiry into Esidimeni deaths. (Paul Herman, News24)

DA leader Mmusi Maimane and shadow minister for health Dr Wilmot James to call for judicial inquiry into Esidimeni deaths. (Paul Herman, News24)

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Cape Town – Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has called for a judicial commission of inquiry into the deaths of more than 100 mentally-ill patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni to various unlicensed NGOs in 2016.

Maimane said the "cruel, inhumane and degrading" deaths in Gauteng between April and June were as a result of a "litany of judgement errors by the ANC government".

"Sadly, it could have been avoided, which is what makes it even more heart-breaking," Maimane told journalists in Parliament on Thursday.

"This will remain a stain on the conscience of government for a long time to come."

Maimane said he has written to President Jacob Zuma requesting he establishes the inquiry, as allowed by section 84 of the Constitution.

He said the country deserves to know what exactly transpired, how it was allowed to happen, what the national government's role was and how to the shortcomings in the health system can be fixed.

He also said that if an inquiry was deemed necessary for the Marikana massacre in 2012, then it was also warranted in this case.

READ: National dept kept in the dark in Esidimeni matter – Motsoaledi

Ombudsman's report 'inconclusive'

Maimane also said that Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba's report did "not go far enough, or deep enough".

"The ombudsman never got to the bottom of why former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu did what she did - including whether there were connections between her and the NGO directors. We must confirm the absence of any underhand dealings or corrupt practices," Maimane said.

"Many questions remain unanswered, and in the name of justice for the deceased and their loved ones, we implore the president to establish such an inquiry without delay."

Among other things the party wants investigated are:

The final number of patients affected, after it was revealed on Wednesday that the number is now above 100.

That several NGOs tried to obtain a court interdict to stop the transfer of some patients, but were persuaded to abandon legal action by the director general of the national health department Malebona Matsoso.

That the Gauteng health department underspent R24.4m of its mental healthcare budget in the last financial year.

That the cluster manager never briefed the minister on the matter.

That according to email chains, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi knew about the plan to move patients as early as March 2016. He blamed poor data and no surveillance.

Things 'we don't know'

DA MP Wilmot James said Makgoba's report was an excellent piece of work, but could only go as far as he could, given the brief from the national department.

He said the report focused on Gauteng, and there are aspects about the responsibility of the rest of government that "we just don't know".

"We don't know why MEC Mahlangu did what she did. What was the motive? What happened exactly? What drove that practice?"

He said it is unclear if the MEC was trying to save money, or had an alleged corrupt relationship with some of the NGOs in question.

The public also does not know the extent to which Motsoaledi was aware of the events, he said.

James said an inquest will not only establish the causes of the deaths, but also the legal and social implications, as well as the lack of a paper trail.

He said a police and Hawks investigation, as recommended by Makgoba's report, will establish inquest dockets into each and every death as a result of "suspicious circumstances", and will be overseen by a magistrate.

Read more on:    da  |  mmusi mai­mane  |  healthcare

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