by Jack Bloom MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC
The ANC in Gauteng has rallied around Premier David Makhura and pushed a party-line vote devoid of conscience to defeat the DA’s motion of no-confidence that would have seen real accountability for the 144 deaths of Life Esidimeni mental health patients.
But Makhura failed to take the opportunity during the debate to refute my claim that he had to have known that the patients were going to NGOs rather than other state facilities as he said repeatedly under oath at the Esidimeni arbitration hearings.
He has also said that he “would have never approved a plan to outsource mental health, a primary responsibility of the state to care for the vulnerable in society, to NGOs.”
According to the Hansard record of proceedings on 15 March 2016, the then Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu said in an oral reply to my questions in the Legislature that the NGOs had hired staff and had been given licenses, and she was confident that 1835 patients would be moved by the end of June.
See Hansard transcript here.
She referred to the court judgement that day in favor of the department placing 54 adult patients at the Takalani NGO despite the fact that this was a facility for children.
She said there was nothing wrong with this as “they are exactly more or less the same intellectual disability of the same people who are at Takalani.”
We now know that one of the first patients to die was Ms Deborah Phetla, who died on 26 March 2016 at Takalani, a mere 10 days after Mahlangu lied to the Legislature that everything was fine.
The post-mortem report showed that she had brown paper and plastic in her stomach because she had not been fed. Conditions were so bad at Takalani that two patients got typhoid and one woman was allegedly raped.
It was one of 5 deadly NGOs associated with 72% of all the deaths.
The Hansard record of 15 March 2016 shows that Makhura attended this sitting where Qedani Mahlangu spoke about the NGOs, including Takalani, where the patients were going to be sent.
I challenged him to use Rule 90 (1) which allows a member to speak on a point of personal explanation.
I said as follows:
“This is your chance, Honorable Premier, to explain how you could somehow ignore what Mahlangu said on 15 March 2016 in this very House to which you are accountable.
If you don’t take this opportunity now, in this House, then your silence will count against you.”
But Makhura kept his silence.
I challenge him now to make a statement on his participation at the sitting of 15 March 2016, otherwise he will be exposed as misleading the Legislature and lying under oath at the Esidimeni arbitration process.