Gauteng government failed to protect the most vulnerable in our society

May 15, 2018

by Refiloe Nt’sekhe MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Social Development

Thank you, Madam Speaker,

When 144 people die – this is a real tragedy for our society. Premier Makhura, I arrived in 2014 as a new MPL eager to serve the people of this province and this country.

When you were sworn in, I truly believed that you were the right person for the job and would do what is required to ensure that Gauteng works for its people.

I tend to be a little too emotional, so I refused to watch the news when families were testifying around Esidimeni but even in trying to avoid it, I would listen to horrific accounts in my car radio.

How does an Esidimeni even coming into being? How does a government reach a point where so many lives are lost under its watch? I don’t have a speech but unanswered questions!

Maybe one needs to get a better understanding of why there was no intervention when in this house, the first 36 deaths were mentioned!

Anyone who knows Member Bloom, knows that he is relentless when he sees something going wrong. Why was he not asked why he was so relentless in pursuing this issue?

Maybe, if an investigation had been launched when he started raising this matter, lives would have been saved.

Death is death and even when people are in institutions, death is a painful loss for those left behind – death is just so final. Knowing that you will never see those you love again: that is pain.

Anyone who has lost a loved one relates to this pain.

The families didn’t have the resources to provide the specialised care for their loved ones. Instead they trusted the government whom they believed were the only ones that could provide the proper care and protection.

These were the most vulnerable in our society, in dire need of specialised care daily.

Gauteng government must ensure that there is greater cooperation between the department of health and social development, so that we do not have another Life Esidimeni tragedy in our province.

The Department of Social Development must ensure that all NGOs on its database, particularly the ones which provide care to those who suffer from mental illnesses are registered.

Regular inspections must be done at each NGO, to determine whether they have all their registration documents in order.

Where this is not the case, we call on the department to offer required assistance in reducing the amount of red tape involved in registering these NGO’s, as this is often a stumbling block which then also compromises the care of the vulnerable.

During his State of the Province Address (SOPA), the Premier admitted that the provincial government had budgeted enough money for mental healthcare services. But had never approved the transfer of the patients to ill-equipped and unlawfully operating NGOs.

We need to know how this happened, if the Premier and his executive did not approve this transfer, then who did?

If government under the leadership of the Premier does not take full responsibility for 144 deaths of Esidimeni patients then who should?

In the same breadth, I am concerned with other NGO’s which are being victimised by the department of Social Development. Some NGO’s were funded by Social Development for over ten years and have been compliant. Suddenly, they are being told that they are not compliant. Another tragedy is brewing, while the Esidimeni tragedy has not been completely resolved.

I worry that, we will have hundreds of elderly people, orphans and vulnerable children who will starve to death because Social Development simply did not pay them much needed funds. Yes, fix processes but not at the expense of the vulnerable.

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