Every time there is a fatality in mining government officials come down on the industry like a ton of bricks. Sometimes they issue stoppage orders closing down mining operations far removed from where the fatality actually occurred.
No reasonable person would dispute the need to ensure safety, even at the cost of production losses. But in the words of a high court judge in 2016, some of the stoppage orders have been "out of all proportion" to the problems identified.
Contrast such heavy-handed action with the callously lackadaisical attitude of officials and their political superiors to the unfolding Life Esidimeni tragedy, which claimed some 143 lives in 2016 and 2017, with possibly as many as 62 patients untraced and still missing. Dikgang Moseneke, a former deputy chief justice, who is busy concluding his hearings about the scandal, commended the Gauteng premier, David Makhura, for taking responsibility for what happened.
Even though Mr Makhura failed to follow through by resigning the premiership, his acceptance of responsibility is in welcome contrast to the denials that we have come to expect from politicians in the African National Congress (ANC) and the cadres they deploy. It is a particularly welcome contrast to the attempts by officials in his health department, and its political head, to wash their hands of inhumanity reminiscent of the treatment of people on slave ships.
Two months ago Mr Makhura said the deaths of the patients who had been shifted from Life Esidemi to the supposed care of various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were a tragedy that could have been avoided. The question is why he did not take steps to avoid it.
He was warned about the problems facing the Life Esidimeni patients as long ago as November 2015. The warnings came from Jack Bloom, health spokesman for the Democratic Alliance (DA), in the Gauteng legislature. On another occasion, Mr Bloom said that the then health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, had admitted in September 2016 that 36 patients had already died. The DA's provincial leader, John Moodey, wrote a year ago that warnings about the dangers to the patients had been "made known to the premier" in January 2016.