South Africa: Five Years On, the Pain of Life Esidimeni Continues

Angry families protest over Life Esidimeni deaths scandal outside the Gauteng health department offices in Johannesburg.

Five years ago, 144 people died after they were moved from a mental health care facility to NGOs and community care. For family members, the suffering is not over.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Prior to Christine Nxumalo's recent interview on SAfm, a caller accused her and other relatives of Life Esidimeni patients of abandoning their loved ones and cashing in on their deaths. "That made me so angry and you see that's the narrative now... It kind of takes away the importance of how horrible this thing really was," she told DM168.

Five years after the Gauteng Health Department started moving patients out of Life Esidimeni en masse, leading to 144 deaths, many families have been compensated but accountability and reform remain elusive.

Christine's sister Virginia Machpelah was a Michael Jackson fanatic. Growing up in the Kimberley heat, she and her siblings would listen to his records. She knew every lyric. Their brother had the glove. "She was wacky, she was crazy, she was fun," said Nxumalo.

After being at Life Esidimeni for a few months with what seemed to be early-onset dementia, Machpelah died at age 50 at the Precious Angels NGO. She spoke...

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