365 Life Esidimeni claimants still not paid, verification process under way

Family members of the Life Esidimeni victims demand answers. (Nation Nyoka/News24)
Family members of the Life Esidimeni victims demand answers. (Nation Nyoka/News24)

At least 365 victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy have still not been compensated in line with Justice Dikgang Moseneke's arbitration ruling.

This is according to Gauteng Premier David Makhura, who orally replied to questions from DA MP Jack Bloom in the Gauteng legislature on Tuesday. 

"Makhura said that R164m had been paid to 134 claimants who were part of the arbitration process, and also to an additional four new claimants," Bloom said in a statement.

While Makhura said that a verification process was under way, involving the Master of the High Court, Bloom said he was concerned that the payments were "unduly by inefficiency in the premier's office".

"Furthermore, it would cost about R431m to pay the 365 claimants, but only R118m was provided for in the adjustment budget in November last year. 

"Where will the missing R313m to pay all the claimants come from?" he asked.

READ: Life Esidimeni: Gauteng govt, eligible families reach payment agreement

However, Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said the R118m was what was allocated to the office during the budget adjustment in 2018 and was based on money that the office had used on its budget to settle the claims.

"There is no R118m. The new claims will be paid by the Office of the Premier from its budget as we did with the first ones," Masebe explained. 

He added that the R118m was part of what had already been paid to the 134 claimants and new provisions were in place to accommodate the remaining claimants.  

Bloom also said it was unlikely that all the victims would be paid by the time that Makhura ends his term of office on May 8.

"It is shameful that he has not given a higher priority to expediting full financial redress for the suffering of the Esidimeni victims," he said.

READ: Disgruntled Life Esidimeni families protest over compensation

However, Masebe guaranteed that there were sufficient funds available to settle the claims and added that they were waiting for the verification processes. 

He said that end of the term of the current administration was not a guide for the office. 

"I can guarantee that we will settle the claims as soon as possible but the time depends on the verification process," Masebe said. 

Should May come and the process is still under way, the claims will still be processed.

"Whether it is before the elections or after the election, what is important is that the claims will be paid," said Masebe.

The Life Esidimeni tragedy saw at least 144 psychiatric patients die after they were transferred from Life Esidimeni to ill-equipped NGOs.

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