/ 21 March 2018

No closure for Life Esidimeni without accountability says Maimane

(Jabu Kumalo/Gallo)
(Jabu Kumalo/Gallo)

With the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the 144 people who lost their lives in the Life Esidimeni tragedy, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has said the families of the victims will not get full closure until those responsible are hauled before a judge.

“For as long as the individuals who were responsible for this crime against some of Gauteng’s most vulnerable citizens remain in their jobs and not in a courtroom, the families of the victims will never have full closure,” said Maimane at the Talisman Foundation in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

READ MORE: #LifeEsidimeni judge: ‘Government violated the Constitution’

“And we know exactly who these individuals are.”

“The Moseneke Report goes into great detail setting out the roles of former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, former Department of Health HOD Dr Barney Selebano and former Director of Mental Health Dr Makgabo Manamela in this tragedy.

“They should be in prison.”

Accepting full responsibility

The DA leader also said that the Gauteng Premier David Makhura should face consequences.

Maimane said that as premier, and in Makhura’s own words, the buck ultimately stops with him and he should also face consequences.

Maimane said the DA has called for a Motion of No Confidence in Premier Makhura because “if he can’t do the honourable thing and resign, then the members of the Gauteng legislature must do it for him”.

He said the arbitration report by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, released this week, in which he awarded R1.2-million to each of the claimants, was a welcome step towards justice but that there was still no closure yet.

“Judge Moseneke states very clearly in his report that the ball is now in SAPS’s court to investigate speedily and institute the necessary criminal charges. This is the only way true justice will be served.”

READ MORE: Zille strikes again with Life Esidimeni tweet

“This is the ANC in Gauteng’s opportunity to show that ‘full responsibility’ means just that. Because the families of the Esidimeni victims deserve a lot better than empty platitudes from those who brought about this tragedy.”

Moseneke gave the government three months to compensate the families.

He slammed the government – Mahlangu, Selebano and Manamela – for the manner in which they handled the Life Esidimeni project.

Moseneke found that their decision to move the mental health care patients was “irrational and unconstitutional”.

Avoid repeating history

Maimane said part of the purpose of Human Rights Day was to avoid repeating history.

“To look back on the terrible injustices of the past and to remind ourselves of our important responsibility to ensure that these injustices never, ever happen again,” said Maimane.

“Our country has a painful history, and we should be more aware and more protective than most of our precious human rights. That’s what makes the Esidimeni tragedy so painful to accept.

“It is shameful that this was allowed to happen at the hands of government in our modern-day democracy. We now owe it to everyone who lost a loved one in this tragedy to ensure that justice is done, and done swiftly.”

A total of 144 psychiatric patients died after being moved from Life Esidimeni to various unlicensed NGOs. Many of the families had not been informed about the intention to move their loved ones.

Some family members found their loved ones in mortuaries and, in some cases, after post-mortems had been conducted, plastic and paper had been found in their stomachs. – News24