Govt’s apologies 'too little, too late' – brother of dead Life Esidemeni patient

A healing session was held for the families of the Life Esidimeni patients ahead of the arbitration hearing. (File: Mpho Raborife, News24)
A healing session was held for the families of the Life Esidimeni patients ahead of the arbitration hearing. (File: Mpho Raborife, News24)

Johannesburg – It was another emotional day for the families of Life Esidimeni patients as they testified about their anger following the deaths of their relatives, and the lack of accountability from those to blame.

Lesiba Legwabe, who lost his brother Mothofela, told the arbitration hearings that the process and the government’s apologies were “too little too late”.

He believes that the death of his brother directly contributed to his wife’s death because they were close.

A double loss

"I buried my brother on the 20th of August. I buried my wife in December… Your apology does not go well with me," he said.

"You didn’t listen to us. It is painful for me… I lost my wife," he said.

He said he was angered by the former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu’s decision to push ahead with the project to move patients from Life Esidimeni to a number of unlicensed NGOs, despite warnings from the families and advice from Section27.

Seeking the truth

"I hope that one day we will know the truth… [The government] undermined the leadership of Section27 when they were advising them. We shouldn’t have been here in this arbitration," he said.

On Tuesday, the ANC in Gauteng said it had been in contact with Mahlangu and she had indicated she would be willing to appear before the arbitration hearings.

"She indicated that she does not have any problem to appear but was not on the list of witnesses. She has made contact with the office of the Arbitrator to discuss the logistics of appearing," Motalatale Modiba said in a statement.

He added that any suggestion that the party was unaware of her whereabouts is incorrect as Mahlangu requested leave from the provincial executive committee at the end of August in order for her to travel overseas to pursue her post graduate studies.

READ: Mahlangu must face Life Esidimeni hearings, say protesters at London School of Economics

Ntombifuthi Dhladhla broke down during her testimony on Tuesday. Her brother Joseph Gumede died after he was moved out of Life Esidimeni and his body spent months in the mortuary at the Mamelodi hospital in Pretoria before his family was contacted.

The hearings had to adjourn to allow Dhladhla time to recover after she broke down while recalling the decomposed state she found her brother in.

"What hurt me the most is I took my brother to a place of safety only to be the one to sign his death certificate," a sobbing Dhladhla told the hearings.

"I can’t face my family," she said.

It emerged during her testimony that her brother’s corpse had decomposed to such a state, that his fingerprints couldn’t be taken.

"I’ve never experienced such pain in my life… I thought he was going to be safe where he was. I won’t forgive Qedani Mahlangu. I won’t rest until justice has been done," an emotional Dhladhla said.

The hearings continue on Thursday.

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