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20 March 2018


Hospersa has welcomed the Life Esidimeni arbitration order whereby government must pay R1,2 million to families of the mentally-ill patients that died while under the care of the Gauteng Department of Health (DoH).  The Union has called for criminal prosecution of the implicated senior officials in order to send a strong message against the abuse of power by government officials entrusted with delivering essential services to those that need it the most.

Yesterday, the former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke ordered government to cough out R1,2 million to affected families of the Life Esidimeni tragedy.  The order comes after a marathon hearing whereby testimonies were heard from various parties including senior Gauteng health officials on reasons behind the decision to rapidly transfer 1 711 mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni to ill-equipped hospitals and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).  The decision to move these patients has led to 144 confirmed deaths and 44 patients whose whereabouts remain unknown.  Hospersa welcomes the order but has called for tougher action against the implicated officials.

“The order comes at a time when the country is about to reflect on human rights issues,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines.  “The Life Esidimeni tragedy will go down in history as one of the worst acts of cruelty in a democratic South Africa whereby senior government officials acted with impunity in violating the basic human rights of the mentally-ill patients and their families.  We call on law enforcement agencies to pursue criminal prosecution of the implicated officials in order to send a strong message against the abuse of power by those in key government positions,” added Desfontaines. 

Gauteng’s former Health Member of the Executive Council (MEC), Qedani Dorothy Mahlangu, former Head of Department (HOD), Dr Tiego Ephraim Selebano and former Head of Mental Health Directorate, Dr Makgabo Manamela were singled out as having played the biggest role in the tragedy.  During their testimonies, the three were heavily criticized for pleading ignorance when the patients started dying and for claiming financial constraints as the determining factor in the decision to transfer the patients.  However, Gauteng Finance MEC testified that cost cutting measures were never supposed to lead to the department stopping essential, core services.  During his testimony, the Gauteng Premier reiterated these sentiments stating that the province had the money for the Life Esidimeni services and labeled the Gauteng DoH as a department full of “scams” and corruption.

“Unfortunately corruption and maladministration have become endemic in the public service and nowhere does it have a more human face than in public health,” said Desfontaines.  In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), cancer patients are being deprived the right to oncology treatment due to broken machines as a result of poor management and alleged corruption.  The corruption relates to the procurement of maintenance services for the machines, where the authorised provider was turned down in favour of a local company which is believed to have links with senior government officials,” added Desfontaines.

“In the North West (NW) Province, senior officials are also implicated in a dodgy deal involving a Gupta-linked company for the roll out of mobile clinics.  It emerged that the NW Health Head of Department (HOD) and a delegation from his department took an extravagant trip to India, seven days after the Gupta-linked company received their payment.  Legal charges have since been brought against the HOD and more heads are expected to roll in that province,” said Desfontaines.

“Hospersa has been at the forefront in highlighting corruption and maladministration in these provincial health departments.  Apart from the numerous marches we have participated in, we have written to the Minister of Health at least five times in recent months regarding the alarming maladministration and corruption in his department.  The minister is yet to respond to any of our letters, including our recent correspondence dated 9 March 2018,” added Desfontaines.

“Hospersa sends its heartfelt and sincere condolences to the loved ones of all patients who have passed away due poor decision-making and maladministration by senior health officials in the country’s health care system.  As we reflect on the right to quality health care, may our trusted leaders use tragedies like Life Esidimeni to remind them about the importance of the Batho Pele Principles which is an oath they have taken to put people first in each and every decision they make,” concluded Desfontaines.



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For interviews please contact Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines – 083-321-4427.

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