Life Esidimeni: Gauteng govt requests meeting with families to deal with R65m claim

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Former Chief Justice  Dikgang Moseneke during the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing.
Former Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke during the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing.
Deon Raath
  • Ulrich Roux and Associates law firm is acting on behalf of 101 families of victims of Life Esidimeni.
  • The law firm sent a letter of demand to the Gauteng government giving them a deadline of 14 August to pay the outstanding R65 million due to the families. 
  • The provincial government responded, asking for a meeting, but a date is yet to be set for them to reach an amicable settlement agreement. 

Ulrich Roux and Associates law firm says it is yet to set a date to meet with the Gauteng government and reach a settlement agreement on the monies owed to the families of the victims of Life Esidimeni. 

The law firm, which is acting on behalf of 101 families of the victims of the tragedy, had sent a letter of demand to Premier David Makhura on 28 July, giving the office a deadline of 14 August to make payment of over R65 million to its clients.

Each claimant was due to receive over R1 million each, as awarded by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke following arbitration in 2018. 

Ulrich Roux told News24 on Friday his office received a letter from the provincial government on Thursday afternoon requesting a meeting in an attempt to reach an amicable settlement.

"So we will not be instituting any action prior to this meeting. We will first attend the meeting with the government and hopefully we can reach an amicable settlement which will of course be to the benefit of our clients. They are of course lawfully entitled to the payments which we have claimed on their behalf," Roux said. 

In 2016, 144 psychiatric patients died after the provincial government's Health Department moved 1 700 mentally ill people from Life Esidimeni homes into ill-equipped NGOs and state facilities.

Gauteng provincial spokesperson Thabo Masebe told News24 that the premier's office had responded to the law firm's letter of demand because it wanted to take it through processes it had followed since receiving the new set of claims. 

READ | Gauteng ANC expresses concern over 21 missing Life Esidimeni patients

Masebe said there had been an agreement in place that claimants' compensation would be split into two; a 50% portion going directly to their accounts and another to a trust for surviving mental healthcare users. 

Mabaso said the office had written back to the law firm suggesting a meeting to iron out some of the issues - no date had yet been set. 

"We're suggesting that we should have a meeting where we can look at all these processes. Remember, we are talking about two sets of claims. The first set of claims that resulted from the arbitration was concluded in 2018 and Justice Moseneke had given a deadline of three months, which was around June 2018. That was done.

"Then after that, there were new claims we received. These are the claims we are [now] talking about, which there was an agreement that the settlement would be 50% into the accounts of the family members who are making the claims and the other 50% would be held in trust for the mental healthcare users," Mabaso said.

But Roux said there was no such agreement made with the clients which the law firm acts on behalf of.

He added that some of his clients had engaged the government and were told they were not going to receive the monies and that a curator would administer it. 

ALSO READ | Life Esidimeni: It happened under my watch, says Makhura

"Now this has not been set in the arbitrators award. It is simply a decision being made by the government on their own accord, but there is no grounds for it. They are bound by the award and the arbitrator," the lawyer said. 

Roux added that they believed their clients were entitled to full funds, adding that they were also not even confident that the funds which would be administered to a trust, would be used to benefit patients. 

"They would rather want to have it in their own personal control or for an independent fund administrator to be appointed to manage the funds. Justifiably so, they don't have faith that if the government administers these funds, it would be used for their intended purpose - to benefit patients." 

Roux said they were looking forward to meeting the provincial government to reach the agreement so that their clients could finally receive what was awarded to them.  

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