Esidimeni: Zuma’s refusal on commission of inquiry means no justice for victims
23 May 2017
In a written reply to a DA parliamentary question, President Jacob Zuma has revealed that he will not institute a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Life Esidimeni tragedy which resulted in the death of more than 100 mental health patients in Gauteng.
The President’s response shows that he does not care about the deaths of over 100 patients at the hands of the Gauteng ANC government.
The President’s uncaring and callous decision comes three months after DA Leader Mmusi Maimane wrote to the President to request that he launch a Judicial Commission of Inquiry in terms of Section 84 (2) (f) of the Constitution, to get to the bottom of how the Gauteng ANC government sent over 100 patients to their death through multiple failures of government and accountability.
The victims and their family members deserve answers for the tragic deaths of their loved ones.
It must be established why the Gauteng government failed to inform the Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi of their intention to move mental health patients to alternative facilities, and why the Gauteng government continued to ignore warnings and queries about the risks that its patient transfer posed. It must also be established why the Gauteng government continued to transfer patients after initial neglect of patients was exposed.
In 2016 occupational therapy students from the University of the Witwatersrand wrote to the Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura and the former MEC for Health, Qedani Mahlangu, amongst others, making the Gauteng government aware of concerns regarding Life Esidimeni patients being moved to alternative facilities and the risks posed.
In a blatant example of how little the ANC cares for the most vulnerable, Premier Makhura and his health department proceeded to ignore these concerns. All of this pain and suffering could have been avoided had Makhura responded. The fact is that the Premier of Gauteng showed disdain and indifference to this crisis, and he cannot escape liability.
Given all the unanswered questions surrounding this tragedy, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry would have been essential to ensure justice for all of the victims and accountability for the loss of life.
Unlike President Zuma, the DA does not believe that “the Health Ombud [investigation] was comprehensive and sufficient”, especially now that more evidence has emerged of a complete breakdown in communications, oversight and cooperation between the National Department of Health and the Gauteng Health Department. There must be political accountability for what can be described as culpable ignorance.
The Life Esidimeni tragedy marks one of the most tragic failures in our democratic history and the ANC-government’s failure to adequately hold the Gauteng government to account is proof not only of their disdain for the mentally ill but for all vulnerable South Africans.
Issued by Wilmot James, DA Shadow Minister of Health, 23 May 2017