Speech by Jack Bloom in debate on the Premier's SOPA
1 March 2018
Madam Speaker, the Honourable Premier has said that he takes full responsibility and accountability for the deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni mental health patients.
He is right to say that the buck stops with him as Premier of this province.
But surely full responsibility and accountability means that he should have resigned.
If he is really accepting the blame, then he has no right to continue holding office, otherwise he diminishes the suffering and deaths of 144 people.
He needs to be accountable for appointing the former MEC for Health Qedani Mahlangu, a flawed character to say the least. And he appointed the former Health Department Head Dr Barney Selebano who had fatal weaknesses too.
The Honourable Premier’s defense is that he didn’t know or that he was lied to about the sending of patients to NGOs.
This is despite a torrent of media reports, warnings, demonstrations, two court cases and official replies in this House that indicated the potential for disaster.
To claim ignorance in the face of all this information is surely to acknowledge gross negligence.
Honourable Premier, if you acknowledge that you are fully accountable and responsible for the gross negligence that led to 144 deaths then an apology is not enough and you should resign.
In other democracies, politicians resign over lesser misdemeanors, but it seems that lives are cheap in this province where the standard for accountability is so low that you think you can get off the hook by merely saying sorry.
The scandal continues as we cannot even say that we know the full extent of the Esidimeni tragedy as 49 patients are still missing and may even be dead.
I hope that the results of the Esidimeni arbitration will go some way to achieving a measure of recompense and closure for the relatives of those who died.
But true justice will only happen when all the culprits are charged and appear in court.
The police and investigating agencies are notoriously slow in getting charges laid in court.
We have seen this in the endless delays in investigating massive corruption in the Gauteng Health Department under former MEC Brian Hlongwa.
The Honourable Premier says he has met with the Special Investigating Unit to ensure that all outstanding cases are speedily concluded.
I would like him to report back on the progress of Presidential Proclamation R21 of 14 May 2010 concerning corruption in the Gauteng Health Department.
This is the root cause of everything that has since gone wrong in that department.
I hope he can tell us that prosecutions will come soon, which should include Honorable Member Brian Hlongwa.
The Honourable Premier says he will institute life style audits. He should start with Honourable Member Hlongwa who told the Sowetan newspaper in April 2009 that he made 10 times more money from his businesses than his salary as a provincial minister, which is how he could afford a R7.2 million house in Bryanston. The headline was “I’m too rich for my job”.
The asset forfeiture unit has applied to seize this same house as a proceed of crime, but the Honourable Hlongwa has followed Jacob Zuma in using lawyers with endless delaying tactics.
The Honourable Premier will recall that I have long called for lifestyle audits, but he rejected this more than two years ago in this House.
The Honourable Premier is four years into his five year term and now suddenly he wants a “new dawn”.
Why didn’t we have a “new dawn” when he first became Premier.
Every year he has announced a “turn-around plan” for the Gauteng Health Department, but the payment arrears keep growing and so do the medical negligence claims.
This Department owes more than R5 billion to 1500 companies, some of which are going bankrupt and others are stopping supplies and services.
This could lead to more Esidimeni-type deaths as vulnerable patients die who could otherwise have been saved.
The quality of health care is so bad that medical negligence claims are now more than R18 billion and growing.
Why did the Honorable Premier not pick up earlier what he calls “the deep institutional and financial problems” in this department.
I have pointed this out for years, but perhaps he wasn’t listening just as he wasn’t listening when I warned about the looming Esidimeni disaster.
Honorable Premier, where does the buck stop for this?
Issued by Jack Bloom, DA Shadow MEC on Health in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, 1 March 2018