In six weeks we’ll know if Qedani Mahlangu will be prosecuted

Content is originally written forBhekisisa
After being awarded damages, distraught families want more: the former Gauteng Health MEC must face criminal charges.

The R135‑million in constitutional damages awarded to claimants in the Life Esidimeni tragedy this week — the largest award of its kind in South Africa’s history — could increase to 10 times that amount.

Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke’s arbitration ruling is also likely to influence future rulings of this kind.

Constitutional damages of R1-million each were awarded to 135 claimants, in addition to funeral-related expenses and R180 000 for shock and psychological trauma.

Moseneke ruled that it was “appropriate relief and compensation for the government’s unjustifiable and reckless breaches” of at least six sections of the Constitution and “multiple contraventions” of the National Health Act and the Mental Health Care Act.

Between October 2015 and June 2016, 1 711 psychiatric patients in Gauteng were transferred from private Life Esidimeni health facilities, for which the state had paid, to largely ill-equipped community organisations with little to no experience in caring for mental health patients.

The move came after the provincial health department ended a 30-year contract with the Life Healthcare private hospital group.

A father speaks out about the terrible conditions his son died in after being removed from state-funded hospital care at Life Esidimeni.

The department ignored repeated warnings from families and civil society organisations that transferring patients to unqualified organisations, which Moseneke referred to as “death and torture traps” in his arbitration ruling, could lead to the death of psychiatric patients.

As a result, 144 patients died, and 1 418 were exposed to “trauma and morbidity” but survived, according to the arbitrator’s report.

Moseneke ruled the sites were “hand-picked” by senior Gauteng health department officials, such as then health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and her head of department, Dr Tiego “Barney” Selebano, with an “irrational and arrogant use of public power”.

All claimants received the same award, regardless of whether their loved ones died or survived.

But the number of claimants is now likely to increase from the original 135, after Moseneke invited those who hadn’t been part of the arbitration — at least 1 350 of those who survived didn’t join — to come forward.

“Not all have joined the process. When they find their voice or way, I trust that the government would choose to meet their claim in terms identical to the award than to set up new litigation of another arbitration process,” Moseneke said in his arbitration award.

Within a day after the ruling, 10 more families and patients had already contacted the arbitrator’s office. “I’ve taken down their details, and sent it through to the mental health director in the Gauteng health department to determine if they qualify for the award,” spokesperson Obakeng van Dyk said.

Historic ruling: Retired judge Dikgang Moseneke said that he hoped the families of affected mental health users, who were not part of the Life Esidimeni arbitration, would come forward and claim the compensation they were due. (Delwyn Verasamy)

In order to qualify, patients should have suffered trauma directly as a result of the transfers and should be able to prove that they or their loved ones were transferred between October 2015 and June 2016.

There have been two major constitutional damages awards in the past, but these were significantly smaller than the Life Esidimeni award and were made in court cases and not by arbitration agreement.

In 2006, the Eastern Cape high court ordered the welfare MEC in the province to pay “Mrs Kate” damages for failing to process and pay her disability grant within a reasonable period”, after the state had taken 40 months to do so.

And in 2005, the department of agriculture and land affairs had to pay constitutional damages to a private company in Benoni, Modderklip Boerdery, after the Constitutional Court ruled that the state had failed to protect Modderklip against the unlawful occupation of its property.

Although the size of the award wasn’t specified, the ruling stipulated that it could not exceed the property’s value, which was less than R1.8‑million.


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A father speaks out about the terrible conditions his son died in after being removed from state-funded hospital care at Life Esidimeni.

Because the Life Esidimeni award is an arbitration award, which is a private agreement between two parties, it can’t set a legal precedent for courts.

But, it will undoubtedly “set a standard”, says advocate Adila Hassim, “because constitutional damages this high have never been awarded before”. Hassim was part of social justice organisation Section27’s legal team that represented 63 of the Life Esidimeni claimants.

Sasha Stevenson, who was also part of the team, agrees: “Because this is such an important and public matter that was decided by the former deputy chief justice, it will have persuasive value to those who are deciding other cases.”

The Life Esidimeni tragedy is also likely to end up in the criminal court. Two parallel criminal investigations — one by the South African Police Service and another by the Special Investigating Unit — have been opened.

Pindi Louw from the National Prosecuting Authority’s Gauteng office confirmed that the office had received 140 inquest dockets from the police for a decision on whether to prosecute.

Mahlangu, Selebano and the director of mental health services at the time of the Life Esidimeni patient transfers, Makgoba Manamela, could all potentially be implicated in charges including murder, attempted murder, culpable homicide, perjury and corruption.

“Deputy director of public prosecutions George Baloyi has assigned a team of prosecutors to work on those documents. They will take between four to six weeks … and will then announce their decision,” Louw said.

The families of Life Esidimeni patients walked out en masse after the testimony of former Qedani Mahlangu at the arbitration.

Moseneke labelled Mahlangu’s and Selebano’s testimonies during the arbitration hearings as “fabricated and patently false”. “All we can hope for is that, one day, the true reason for the conception and implementation of the Marathon Mental Health Project [of which the Life Esidimeni patient transfers formed part] will see the light of day,” he said.

The spokesperson for the Life Esidimeni families, Christine Nxumalo, said, although they accepted the compensation, they still wanted the department to be held accountable. “We see Qedani Mahlangu and her officials as proper traitors, because they didn’t provide us with the answers we asked for in the hearings,” she said.

“You don’t just forgive a traitor. We want to see that justice is done.”

Gauteng Department of Health – Nominations for Community Representatives

News Release from the Gauteng Department of Health.


Nominate your new primary health care committee

The Gauteng Department of Health has invited members of the public to nominate their new community representatives to serve on Primary Health Care Facility Committees.

“Primary Health Care Facility Committees are community representatives that assist primary health facilities in addressing the health needs of the communities served and to ensure accountability and the effective management of facilities,” said the department.

The clinic committees in Gauteng serve a three year-term in office. The terms starts on 1 April 2018 – 31 March 2021. The committees are established in terms of Section 42 of the National Health Act, no. 61 of 2003.

Community members have been advised to take the following into consideration when making their nominations:

In order to be considered for appointment, nominees must:

  • Be above 25 years of age;
  • Reside within the area or the ward served by the facility;
  • Must have sound knowledge and understanding of community work; and
  • Must at least have a sound knowledge of the health sector.

Roles and functions of the clinic committees include:

  • Promote the mission, vision and values of the Department of Health;
  • Participate in the strategic planning and operational processes with a view to advising management;
  • Ensure that measures are taken by management to improve the performance and quality of service;
  • Fulfil an oversight role with respect to the performance, effectiveness and efficiency including the maintenance of the Primary Healthcare Care facility;
  • Ensure that measures are in place to address the needs, concerns and complaints of clients and the community and that such are properly managed;
  •        Foster community participation and accountability; and
  • Provide information about the facility including services; programmes and campaigns of the department.

Procedures for nominations

Nomination forms can be obtained from all Gauteng Health Primary Health Care facilities and completed forms should be submitted to the local Primary Health Care facility.

A comprehensive curriculum vitae and certified copy of identity document should be attached to the nomination form.

Nominations may also be forwarded to the Department of Health for attention:  Mpuleng Kgotleng or Donald Phasha, Gauteng Department of Health, 21st Floor, Room 2105, Bank of Lisbon, 37 Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Street, Johannesburg.

For more information, members of the public can contact

Mpuleng Kgotleng on email:[email protected] 079 526 3576.

Donald Phasha on email:[email protected] 031 7859

Closing date for nomination is 9 February 2018. –

94 Mentally Ill Patients dead – health Ombudsman Report into Life Esidimeni

A damning report by health ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba revealed yesterday that 94 mentally ill patients died while under government care. This is 61 more than the originally stated 36 deaths. Gauteng provincial health minister (MEC) Qedani Mahlangu resigned in the wake of the disastrous relocation of patients from Life Esidimeni Hospital to cheaper places of care.

The travesty of the report goes further to lay shame on the appalling circumstance with which this matter was handled. At the time of the minister’s public statements on 13th September 2016 of that there had been 36 deaths, in reality 77 patients had already died. The deaths occurred between May and September 2016. Furthermore, it shows that the 27 NGOs to which the patients were moved had invalid licenses issued by the Department. 94 of these deaths occurred at NGOs while another three deaths occurred at hospitals. It must be noted that 81 of these deaths were patients from Life Esidimeni.

This extract shows the worst of the NGO facilities “75 (79.78%) patients died from 5 NGO complexes (Precious Angels 20, CCRC/Siyabadinga/Anchor 25, Mosego/Takalani 15, Tshepong 10 and Hephzibah 5).

The tragedy grows grimmer as the circumstances of these deaths can only be described as inhumane. Only 1 patient died from natural causes due to their mental illness. Many these patients died from pneumonia, dehydration and diarrhoea in the hastened movement to care facilities. Showing an utter disregard for their well-being and care.  Many of these patients were collected and moved in bakkies in the hast. The tales of woe from the families about the conditions in which their loved ones were kept under has been likened to concentration camps, including malnutrition and underweight.

The relocation of these patients was a cost cutting and saving measure for the department that went ahead despite many warnings and appeals from civil society and experts. The facilities to which patients were transferred were ill-equipped, under-staffed, untrained or unfit to provide care.  The report notes that facilities could not distinguish between making money (profit) and a structured, non-stop care facility. Additionally, the patients were often moved without the families consent or knowledge and in many cases to facilities far from their families and communities.

The night before the report was released Gauteng minister of Health Qedani Mahlangu resigned from her position under the enormous weight of the report and public anger. This, however, is only the start of the battle for these patients and families. The number of deaths and findings is likely to grow as further investigations are done. Moreover civil legal ramifications are likely. At first this lost was likened the number of lives lost at Marikana miners massacre. However, this is three times the Marikana death toll to some of our society’s most vulnerable people.

To download the full report click the link below.