NEWS & ANALYSIS

Those implicated in Esidimeni tragedy should pay compensation – Jack Bloom

DA MPL asks why those most to blame have not faced any court action whatsoever

Former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and officials implicated in Life Esidimeni tragedy should be made to pay compensations to the victims’ families

3 December 2019

Madam Speaker, the purpose of this motion is to ensure that there is serious consideration of the option of recovering money from those most responsible for the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

More than a year ago the Honourable Premier said in this House that he was consulting with stakeholders and legal advisers, including the Department of Justice, on whether former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and senior health officials can be forced to pay for the compensation costs.

This House needs to know what the outcome of this consultation and what steps will be done to take this forward.

The first legal step is to make the Arbitration Award of Justice DikgangMoseneke an order of the court so that the Apportionment of Damages Act can be used. There is then a one-year prescription period for action to be taken under this Act.

I don’t know why the provincial government has been dragging its heels in this matter. I hope it’s not to protect Qedani Mahlangu who was still popular enough in the ANC to get elected last year to the Provincial Executive Committee.

The Special Investigating Unit has led the way in getting a court order for two NGOs to pay back R663 000 to the Gauteng Health Department as they had fraudulently claimed this for patients who had already been removed from them.

They are also pursuing civil action against another 11 NGOs who submitted fraudulent invoices for payments of about R5.5 million.

I have to ask, however, why the people who were most to blame for the loss of 144 lives have not faced any court action whatsoever.

Investigations are taking far too long as people want to see accountability and justice.

It would be ideal to use the Apportionment of Damages Act in this matter, and we have legal opinion that it can be done.

It would be a very good precedent to hold errant officials personally liable. Why should they be allowed to leave with their pensions intact and the state has to pay for their misdeeds?

In fact, the Department has already indicated in a recent presentation to SCOPA that they intend to use the Apportionment of Damages Act to recover money from medical staff implicated in medical negligence cases.

So, we should really all be in agreement on this motion.

The Honourable Premier has talked about good governance and accountability. The Esidimeni horrors happened under his watch, so there is added reason to make sure that those responsible pay in every way, both financially and in jail time.

It is unfortunate that we are still far away from criminal charges against all those implicated in the deaths and other infractions with criminal liability.

Meanwhile, we can make progress for civil liability, not just against the NGOs but against the former Health MEC and her senior officials.

This is a test case. Accept this motion and come back to this House within 60 days or reject it because you still want to protect one of your comrades.

It is your duty for moral, legal and good governance reasons to support this motion.

Issued by Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC, 3 December 2019