DA: We have evidence Makhura knew about the relocation of Life Esidimeni patients

“However as head of government in this province I have taken full responsibility and accountability for this tragic loss of life. I cannot pass the buck,” David Makhura said. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

“However as head of government in this province I have taken full responsibility and accountability for this tragic loss of life. I cannot pass the buck,” David Makhura said. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

The Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloom, the shadow MEC for health, said that if Gauteng Premier David Makhura were to truly hold himself accountable, he would resign.

During his state of the province address on Monday, Makhura said that the Life Esidimeni tragedy that saw the death of 144 mental health patients at ill equipped NGOs, has revealed the extent of the dire state of public health services in the province.

He called on opposition parties to contribute towards addressing the crisis in the province’s public health system.

Bloom said the DA welcomes Makhura’s plans to appoint an independent curator that would ensure the effective implementation of the recommendations from retired chief justice Dikgang Moseneke’s dispute resolution process, once they were announced. But it’s not enough.

“It is actually true that the buck stops with him, but he should have resigned over it,” Bloom said.

Bloom has brought a motion in the legislature to refer Makhura to the Integrity Commissioner.

Bloom tabled the motion on the grounds for it to be determined if Makhura “breached the Code of Conduct and Ethics by misleading this House and the Arbitration Hearings” by stating he did not know the Life Esidimeni patients were being sent to NGOs.

Bloom attached a transcript from March 15 2016 to the motion. In the transcript he asks former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu if NGOs were ready to receive the patients.

Mahlangu replied: “Progress we have made with the NGOS: we have activated more than 2000 beds, including beds that are in the provincial facilities, as we speak now. The NGOs have hired the staff. They have also been given licenses.”

In his Sopa speech, Makhura repeated his claim that he did not know Life Esidimeni patients were being moved to NGOs, but Bloom says that this is impossible because Makhura was in the legislature while Mahlangu was answering questions about the NGOs on March 15.

“He’s sitting there, because this is a meeting of the house,” Bloom said. “I don’t know why he persists that he didn’t know.”

On Monday, Makhura asked political parties to put aside their divisions along party lines and work together to fix the provincial public health system.

“I want to invite you members of the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters], I know health is a big focus for you this year. I invite you for us to join hands and work together,” Makhura said

“Let’s work together to fix the health system for our people. This is not a party political issue. Health is an important issue for the wellbeing of our people,” he added.

Despite expressing remorse for the deaths of the patients, Makhura took a moment to reiterate that he had not approved the fatal move of mental health patients to NGOs, some of which turned out to be unlicensed.

“The Gauteng provincial government had budgeted enough money for mental health services. I reiterate that the transfer of mental health patients to ill equipped NGO’s was never approved by myself and the executive council which I lead,” Makhura said.

“However as head of government in this province I have taken full responsibility and accountability for this tragic loss of life. I cannot pass the buck. I am the Premier of this province and the buck stops with me,” he added.

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography.
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