It was like a case of déjà vu for Gauteng Premier David Makhura as he delivered the 2018 state of the province address on Monday, where he spoke about topics such as the Life Esidimeni tragedy and the economy.
At last year’s address, Makhuru had to deal with protests by the Democratic Alliance whose members of the provincial legislature carried placards that read “Remember Life Esidimeni”. This year it was the Economic Freedom Fighters members who protested against Makhura and his involvement as the head of the province.
Makhura, who was called as a witness to testify in the four-month long Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings, expressed his sadness at what had occurred and accepted responsibility for the death of 144 mentally ill patients who were moved into ill-resourced and unlicensed non-governmental organisations.
“I could have done something to be more responsive and bring the non-governmental organisations around the table with the department,” Makhura said in January.
Today he apologised, saying that he was committed to ensuring that this never happened again.
“I dip my head in shame and once more apologise that this happened under my watch and I am totally committed to taking corrective and remedial action to ensure that this never happens again,” said Makhura.
Today, a year on from last year’s address, Makhura once again dealt with the tragedy, saying that it had helped to expose the failure of public health care workers who had treated patients with “disdain”.
“This is totally unacceptable and is not representative of the tens and thousands of healthcare professionals and workers who are compassionate and dedicated to public service excellence‚” Makhura said.
Makhura also emphasised that the transfer of the patients was never approved for by himself of the Gauteng executive council.
“I would like to reiterate that the transfer of mental healthcare patients to ill-equipped and unlawfully operating non-governmental organisations was never approved by myself or the Gauteng executive council.”
Makhura also addressed the need for job creation in the province, in order to reduce the 29.1% unemployment rate, according to the fourth quarter of 2017 unemployment figures by Statistics South Africa.
“To eliminate unemployment in Gauteng, we need to create 5 400 jobs a day – and to halve unemployment, we need to create 2700 jobs a day,” the premier said.
Makhura spoke of a “new dawn”, and said the country’s new leadership under President Cyril Ramaphosa had “instilled renewed confidence in South Africa’s economy”.