The anticipated arrival of former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings brought out a sea of protesters, who said that they were tired of the deaths of people at the hands of an uncaring government.
On Monday, the TAC handed over a memorandum to the deputy director general in the office of the Premier, Thabo Masebe, to give to Gauteng Premier David Makhura in his absence at the Life Esidimeni hearings in Parktown North, Johannesburg.
TAC secretary general, Vuyokazi Gonyela, told protestors outside the venue that they were disappointed that Makhura was not present at the hearings and called it a sign of disrespect.
They said it showed that they were not a priority to the premier or the government.
Scenes from outside. Placards held up by protestors from various groups such as the Sonke Gender Justice, Young Nurses Indaba and Treatment Action Campaign "We are sick of an irresponsible government. We are sick and tired of a government that lacks accountability. We are sick of a government that does not provide leadership when it is necessary. We are sick of a government that goes to communities and mobilises people only when it's time for votes. We are sick of a government that makes promises that it never keeps, undermines our Constitution. We have a right to health," Gonyela shouted to cheers from the crowd.
Gonyela demanded a meeting with Makhura before the end of February. She said the meeting would also include civil society and labour. She called the deaths of more 140 Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients during a cost-cutting move by the department "unacceptable" and added that they had not seen any government official provide clear answers or held accountable.
"The culture of fear and intimidation within the provincial government that fostered the silencing, denying and eventual complicity in the Life Esidimeni tragedy needs to be addressed and changed immediately," she said. The secretary general told the crowd that Life Esidimeni was the tip of the iceberg in a sick healthcare system, and warned that similar tragedies would happen again in the future.
Nomvula Nonjabe, a family member of one of the patients who survived the move, addressed the angry crowd and said that the government needed to stop reshuffling people, who had taken lives, to other departments and put them in other positions.
"Every life matters, it doesn't matter whether it's [a] disabled [person] or not. Just because wena you have a functioning mind, it does not mean you must kill those who are disabled man!" she shouted, her voice breaking.
Nonjabe said that the department had wasted the families' time, and Mahlangu was doing the same by telling lies while under oath.
"The worst thing is we warned her, and she insisted [on going] ahead. She attended the meetings. In the interviews... late last year, she was saying she never visited any NGOs. Now today, within the first hour, she says she visited three NGOs," she said. People shouted as she spoke: "She is a liar!"
"Why the lies? Has she not done enough to mess up already? Now [we] must listen to lies? We are here for the truth! We want the truth!" she said.
Masebe was there to receive the memorandum.
He told protesters that Makhura was concerned about the state of the health system and wanted to work with organisations to solve problems.
Makhura is expected to appear before the hearings on January 31.