9 November 2017

South Africa: Life Esidimeni - Family Offered Food Parcels After Losing Stepson

A distraught woman who lost her stepson in the Life Esidimeni tragedy was offered food parcels after his death.

Jabulile Hlatshwayo, whose stepson Sizwe died, testified at the arbitration hearings on Thursday that Dr Makgabo Manamela, the suspended director of the Gauteng mental health review board, had made the offer to her.

She said she turned it down and told Manamela to "shove the food parcels where the sun does not shine".

"Sizwe spent 16 years of his life at Life Esidimeni without complications, but it took the government less than seven months to kill my son," she said.

Emotional testimony

Another woman, Anna Thokozile Mthembu, broke down when she told the hearing how the loss of her sister had a massive impact on her own health.

Mthembu, whose sister Busisiwe Shabalala died after she was moved out of the Life Esidimeni facility in Randfontein to the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC), told the arbitration hearings on Thursday that her sister's death had a big impact on her and her family.

"I think if Busisiwe was with me... my mother left her in my care, I think she would still have been alive," she said.

Mthembu and the isiZulu interpreter broke down during Mthembu's testimony.

"Even when I sit down and eat, I always think of her and if she had food," Mthembu said.

Daphney Ndlovu, a social worker at CCRC, testified at the arbitration hearings last month that patients were well looked after, that they were fed four times a day and that their bed linen were changed three times a day. But Mthembu disagreed.

Dignity denied

"The ward was unclean and they didn't treat our family members with dignity," she said.

Mthembu told the hearings when she went to visit her sister in the winter of 2016, she wasn't dressed in suitable clothing and that other patients looked like they hadn't bathed in a while.

She said when she questioned staff at the centre; she was told she was asking too many questions.

"The nurse said to me 'mam, you ask too many questions and I have a lot of work to do'," she said.

Earlier, Luleka Lorraine Khunjwa, whose sister Maureen died after she was moved to Takalani in Soweto, told the arbitration hearings that she felt her sister was "murdered".

A fatal move

"She was not well taken care of like she was at Life Esidimeni in Randfontein," she said. "[She died] because she was transferred... and was taken to a place that was inappropriate."

During her testimony it was said that photographs in evidence showed a "marked deterioration" of Maureen's condition.

Khunjwa said that during visits to her sister, she noticed how she had lost a lot of weight and was severely dehydrated.

"All I can say is that they (the NGO) murdered her," she said.

"What I can say is that our government, a democratic government, a government we elected, did not treat my sister very well," she said.

Source: News24

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