Life Esidimeni victim's sister: 'I cried. I did not believe what I saw'

Phumzile Motshegwa at the Life Esidimeni hearings. (Screengrab via SABC)
Phumzile Motshegwa at the Life Esidimeni hearings. (Screengrab via SABC)

Johannesburg - The sister of one of the Life Esidimeni patients on Friday described the conditions she found her brother's body in after he was transferred to a mortuary, which used to be a butchery.

Phumzile Motshegwa, whose older brother Nathaniel ‘Solly’ Mashigo passed away in August 2016 after he was moved to Precious Angels, has told the arbitration hearings into the deaths of Life Esidimeni patients that she was only informed about his death a month after he died.

Solly was moved from a Life Esidimeni facility in Johannesburg to Precious Angels in Pretoria, with the health ombudsman saying in his report that patients at the facility could have died because of hunger and cold.

READ: Govt made promises to help - NGO with 'appalling' conditions testifies on Life Esidimeni saga

Motshegwa told the hearings on Friday that she was called by Ethel Ncube, the owner of Precious Angels, who told her her brother had died.

He died on August 2 but was only taken to the mortuary on August 6. On September 9, she got a call to go and view her brother’s body at the mortuary. She said when she arrived at Put u 2 Rest mortuary, she couldn’t believe it.

"I recognised that place as a butchery because I went to school near that place," Motshegwa said.

Trails of blood

When the mortuary’s owner opened the sliding garage doors, she said she saw blood on the floor with three men cleaning the floors with hose pipes.

She said when she went inside to view Solly’s body, he was stacked between other bodies.

"We recognised Solly because of his scar," she said. "I cried. I did not believe what I saw."

Motshegwa found her brother’s body already decomposing, with the eyeballs missing from its sockets and his nose damaged.

The bodies were naked

"I asked for gloves, because I wanted to check if Solly’s body was complete," Motshegwa said. "I took the blanket I was wearing and then I covered my brother… he was naked, he had nothing on. All the bodies in the mortuary were naked."

Motshegwa said she went home on that Friday afternoon and could not sleep that night.

"I didn’t sleep the entire night on Friday".

She said she decided to go back to the mortuary and ask a gentleman who worked there to explain if what she saw was real.

To her shock, what she saw on the Saturday confirmed to her what she saw the previous day. Motshegwa went home and started making funeral arrangements.

She said it was a difficult time for the family. Before Solly’s funeral, she had to bury her father in April 2016. Her husband also died, and on the day of Solly’s funeral, Motshegwa’s daughter-in-law died.

The hearings continue.

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