South Africa: Life Esidimeni Docket Referred for Formal Inquest

Top: North Gauteng High Court. Bottom-left: Hospital ward. Bottom-right: National Prosecuting Authority logo.
18 September 2019

The Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate George Baloyi, has decided that a formal and joint inquest into all deaths related to the Life Esidimeni tragedy be held in the High Court of Pretoria before a judge.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Thursday said Baloyi took the decision after careful consideration of all the facts, reports and available information.

An arbitration enquiry into the Life Esidimeni tragedy was established following recommendations by the Health Ombudsman after compiling a report called "The Ombud's Report" detailing findings into a probe to establish the circumstances surrounding the deaths of mentally ill patients, who were moved from Life Esidimeni healthcare facility to various Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in Gauteng.

The inquiry, led by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, concluded its work in March 2018. It found that government officials acted in breach of the law and the Constitution when they ended the Life Esidimeni contract and moved patients to NGOs without due regard for their wellbeing and state of health.

During April 2017, the NPA received 144 enquiry dockets regarding the Life Esidimeni tragedy and the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions then assigned a team of four experienced advocates to the matter to work closely with investigators in collecting more information to build a solid case.

Led by a very senior advocate, they devoted most of their attention to a very protracted investigation, converting all 144 enquiry dockets into one docket, guiding investigations and monitoring progress on further documentation that had to be obtained.

"It is this process that has revealed that the evidence at our disposal currently is not enough to prove causation of death nor is it enough to help us link the actions of different role players to the eventual deaths.

"It is against these findings and facts of the case as a whole that the State had to make a determination whether a prima facie case justifying prosecution could be made.

"The State therefore correctly sets out the legal principles applicable to the problem and upon thorough assessment of all the available facts and circumstances, came to a conclusion that the matter be referred for a formal inquest," the NPA said.

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