Life Esidimeni: Section 21 guns for Qedani Mahlangu’s head

The Life Esidimeni inquest continues in the high court in Pretoria on Friday after Section 27 called on Thursday for implicated officials to be criminally charged. 

The civil rights organisation told the court that the officials need to account and pay for their decision-making that resulted in the deaths of 144 mental health patients.

Twenty-one other patients have been confirmed missing since 2016.

Former health MEC blamed

The officials include former Gauteng mental health head Makgabo Manamela, former MEC for health Qedani Mahlangu, and Ethel Ncube, the owner of Precious Angels, a non-government organisation (NGO).

Speaking on behalf of Section 27, Sasha Stevenson said while Mahlangu and Manamela allowed for the termination of the contract with Life Esidimeni, 20 people died at Ncube’s NGO.

“Ncube didn’t have the facilities that she needed, she didn’t have the funding, she had no expertise, she had no appropriate staff,” said Stevenson.

“Yet, over a number of days, she took in 56 mental health patients.”

Despite the years having gone by as the tragedy happened seven years ago, families of the victims are still seeking justice for their loved ones.

Hope for families restored

Meanwhile, Life Esidimeni Family Committee member Christine Nxumalo said hope has been restored to the families.

This after a report from the health ombudsman showed how credible the officials that are running the process are.

“The comfort came from the manner in which the judge did not allow for her to be abused, and did not give in for people to manipulate the process,” said Nxumalo.

“She made sure that people’s rights were adhered to, so that there is no comeback or appeals when she makes the ruling.”

Even though Nxumalo said the process has been a lengthy and emotional one, she noted that the families appreciated that uncomfortable questions were asked.

“Compared to when they testified during arbitration, what was different with this process is that there was a lot more information that came out.

“It is clear for us where the blame should be.”

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