“We applaud retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke for his tenacity in ensuring her attendance at the arbitration. We have no doubt that he will hold her to account,” says Dominique Msibi, OUTA’s portfolio manager for social services and special projects.
Mahlangu, who was the Gauteng MEC for Health during the disastrous move of psychiatric patients from the Life Esidimeni facilities to inadequate NGO facilities, resulting in trauma, illness and more than 100 deaths, is due to appear before the arbitration hearings from today, 22 January.
“We are talking about people dying under the most inhumane conditions. Deaths were caused due to starvation, asphyxiation and plain neglect. It has been described as torture by one witness,” says Msibi.
The trauma is still felt today by the survivors and the families who lost loved ones. The trauma was so intense that some grieving relatives lost their own lives as the magnitude of what happened sank in.
One of those affected was Shanice Machpelah, who lost her battle with struggling to come to terms with the loss of her mother. Shanice passed away in October 2017, just a few days after her 21st birthday, although she had not been ill. A month before her death, she bravely stood in front of television cameras, pleading for answers and calling for Mahlangu to be held accountable for this tragedy.
“For far too long Qedani Mahlangu has avoided answering to the affected families and the people of South Africa,” says Msibi. “The families have been clear about this need from the very beginning, yet it seems Mahlangu prioritised other matters in her life before the needs of the grief-stricken.”
OUTA welcomes the progress in this matter that means she will finally stand before the victims’ families to explain herself and her role in this tragedy.
Nelson Mandela said: “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” He was talking about prisoners, but the point about the treatment of the powerless is illuminating in the Esidimeni context. Mahlangu’s department failed those psychiatric patients, who were powerless to defend themselves.
We await Mahlangu’s explanation.
OUTA is a proudly South African non-profit civil action organisation, comprising of and supported by people who are passionate about holding government accountable and improving the prosperity of South Africa.