5 July 2017

South Africa: Life Esidimeni - Justice Still Slow Despite SIU Investigation

President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday authorised a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe into the Life Esidimeni tragedy, which caused over 100 deaths. Holding responsible officials accountable has, so far, been painfully slow.

Five months after Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba released his report, the deaths of Life Esidimeni patients has faded into the shadow of the scandal cycle. In retrospect, the level of callous incompetence and maladministration goes beyond the daily stories of self-enrichment that denies the majority of South Africans decent government services. Gauteng's most vulnerable citizens, terminally ill psychiatric patients who depended on the state, were sent to die from neglect, hunger and cold.

We don't even know how many patients died - at least 100. The Gauteng health department was repeatedly warned. In 2015, it decided to send Life Esidimeni patients to NGOs and home care, following the national policy of de-institutionalisation. But it was instituted too early, without preparation, and, as expected, patients died. Government officials insulted those who complained their relatives were moved like cattle to NGOs that could not provide adequate care. They allowed people to die. When they died, relatives were again neglected, denied details or lied to about how...

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