Featured Article, Gauteng, South Africa

Zuma refuses to institute an Inquiry into Life Esidimeni tragedy

President Jacob Zuma’s Replies to Parliamentary Questions for Written Reply, National Assembly

President Jacob Zuma has revealed that he will not institute any form of Inquiry into the Life Esidimeni tragedy which resulted in the death of more than 100 mental health patients in Gauteng.

The Leader of opposition 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.

Question: On what date did he first gain knowledge (a) of the transfer of thousands of mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni Healthcare to 27 unlicensed non-government organisations (NGOs) and (b) that some of the specified patients had died in the care of these unlicensed NGOs;

Reply by President Zuma.

“I was briefed by the Minister of Health on Life Esidimeni on 1 February 2017, which was immediately after the release of the report on the matter by the Health Ombud, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba. Immediately after this briefing, on behalf of the government, I extended our deepest condolences to the families of psychiatric patients who died so tragically in Gauteng. “

Question: Does he intend to establish a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Esidimeni tragedy; if not, why not; if so, by what date?

Reply by President Zuma.

The investigation that was conducted by the Health Ombud was comprehensive and sufficient with regard to assisting government with information to deal with the matters at hand. As such I am not intending to establish a Commission of Inquiry.

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.

Premier Makhura and his health department proceeded to ignore these concerns. All of this pain and suffering could have been avoided had Makhura responded.

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