Life Esidimeni hearings told of rape at facility

2017-11-22 23:08
Nwagu Rasidzoge testifies at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

Nwagu Rasidzoge testifies at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

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Johannesburg – A witness has told the Life Esidimeni arbitration panel that her 36-year-old sister was raped at non-governmental organisation Takalani - the same facility that mentally ill patients were moved to during the controversial transfer of patients.

The sister later discovered that she was infected with HIV/Aids. 

The arbitration hearings are taking place in Parktown after the death of 140 mentally ill patients in government care, who were transferred to NGOs.

One such organisation was Takalani.

The patients had been moved to various unlicensed NGOs across the province after the health department cancelled a contract with Life Esidimeni to save money. 

READ:  'We didn't plan for anyone to lose their lives', says Manamela

At the hearings on Wednesday, the witness (who cannot be identified in order to protect the identity of her sister) testified that the sister became brain damaged after an incident in which a dog bit her. She ended up at the facility.

The panel was told that the woman was raped in 2003 by another mentally ill patient.

"When we asked the [facility], we were told that the person [allegedly] responsible is a humble guy and my sister must have led him on. No one was arrested. It was just a one-sided story and there was never a follow up," she said.

Her sister initially tested negative for HIV/Aids, but later tested positive.

"She might have been infected when she was discharged for a year because she was always on the streets and came back late in the evening. People might have taken advantage of her," the witness said. 

A similar experience at Takalani in 2016

Advocate for Section 27, Adila Hassim, also told the panel that a relative of a deceased family member had testified about a similar experience at Takalani in 2016.

Justice Dikgang Moseneke questioned why sexually active men were put in the same ward as women at some of the NGOs. He wondered how many women had fallen victim.

The witness told the panel that some facilities took on more than they could handle because of the financial benefit.

READ:  Uncle was missing for two months after Life Esidimeni move - testimony

She said they could have reasonably foreseen that the move to ill-equipped NGOs would result in deaths.

"The project was the last thing on their minds...they put themselves first. They would have rather sacrificed the lives of our loved ones than losing their positions," she said, while family members in the crowd shouted: “Kunjalo!" (that’s the truth). 

"If people could just come and tell the truth of the matter, stop pointing fingers. No one is taking responsibility, they are just pointing fingers and that’s not helping us," she added.

Untruthful and unreliable

The panel also heard the testimony of Nwagu Rasidzoge, manager for the facility management unit at Cullinan Care and Rehab Centre, who gave testimony that lawyers described as untruthful and unreliable.

Solidarity’s Dirk Groenewald accused Rasidzoge of not taking the panel into his confidence.

The panel heard that Rasidzoge had been a manager at the facility since 2012 and knew since then that it did not have an operating licence or certificate.

He also allegedly fraudulently signed off on incorrectly-dated documents for service providers.

In some instances, the service providers charged double the rate of routine services and charged for overtime that he signed off, the panel heard.

Rasidzoge tried to shift the blame on the department of infrastructure development.

Relative's body

"You can’t contradict your own statements. Is that allowed here? You can’t write things then deny them after providing them to your [head of department]," a frustrated Moseneke said.

A witness previously testified that they had been called and told to urgently pick up a relative’s body at the Cullinan mortuary.

They found the decomposed body on the floor, in a hot room at the mortuary.

"I am asking why decomposed bodies were found in your mortuary and why these families had to be confronted with bodies that were smelly,” Moseneke charged.

Rasidzoge was unable to answer.

An emotional family member walked out crying as Rasidzoge was cross-examined.

"Your job is an important one - to preserve bodies so that their loved ones can bury them with respect and dignity," said Moseneke before adjourning.

The hearing continues on Thursday, when suspended Gauteng Director of Mental Health, Dr Makgabo Manamela, is due to testify.

She did not arrive for the continuation of her testimony on Tuesday due to illness.

Read more on:    life esidimeni  |  makgabo manamela  |  johannesburg  |  health

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