20 November 2018

South Africa: Life Esidimeni - Gauteng Premier's Office Says New Claimants Still Being Vetted

Photo: Ray Mwareya/GroundUp
Angry families protest over Life Esidimeni deaths scandal outside the Gauteng health department offices in Johannesburg (file photo).

The Gauteng premier's office has disputed a claim that the finance department has not budgeted for payments for 200 new Life Esidimeni claimants.

On Sunday, DA MPL Jack Bloom said in a statement that the 200 new claimants had come forward, but that Gauteng Finance MEC Barbara Creecy's department had not made provision for them in the adjustment budget.

However, spokesperson for the Gauteng premier's office Thabo Masebe, told News24 that this was not true.

He said that all claims were paid by the June 19 deadline and that the premier's office was aware that there was a possibility that new claimants might come forward.

Masebe pointed out though, that the new claimants were still subject to verification and legal processes, and that the premier's office could not ask the provincial treasury for more money until the process was completed.

At least 144 psychiatric patients died after the Gauteng Department of Health moved 1 700 patients from Life Esidimeni homes to ill-equipped NGOs and facilities in 2016.

Following an arbitration process, former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke ruled on March 19 that each claimant was to receive R1m for constitutional damages, R180 000 for emotional trauma and R20 000 for funeral expenses for those who died.

According to Bloom, this means that payments to 200 new claimants would cost R236m.

The current adjustment budget for the claims, of R118m, means it now falls some R100m short, he said.

But Masebe said the provincial government fully anticipated that more people would come forward "as they find their voices".

"We have made the payments by the June 19 deadline. All the claims were paid. Moseneke said it's possible that some more people may come forward, and he expects government to treat them the same way," Masebe said.

"Subject to the legal process, we will know how many people we are talking about and do our calculations. And then we will be able to approach Treasury for any additional funding [required]. The money that we paid in June was covered by budget adjustment," Masebe said.

Source: News24

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