Precious angels’ hell on earth
The presence of white patients at nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Precious Angels in Atteridgeville, Tshwane, caused a concerned neighbour to dismiss thoughts of alerting health inspectors to the facility where 20 mentally ill patients died.
“There were white patients there, so I was sure that the NGO was legitimate,” she said.
“I could have saved many lives. Look what happened now,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba revealed in his report this week that at least 94 patients died after being moved from Life Esidimeni to 27 NGOs that operated illegally.
The neighbour, who lives a few houses away from the NGO that belonged to Ethel Ncube, said they were relieved when the facility was shut down in September last year.
“Patients used to cry loudly day and night. We witnessed ambulances and hearses coming in and out from the house,” she said.
“At some point we had to stop our kids from playing outside because they were being exposed to dead bodies while playing. This was bad for our children.
“Ethel has to go to jail. She played with many people’s lives.” On Friday, Ncube was nowhere to be found. The house’s new occupants allowed City Press inside. The facility, which was occupied by 57 patients, had only one bath tub and toilet. The neighbour said mentally disabled children and adults lived under the same roof.
Neighbours, she said, were also not told that the patients were going to move in in April last year.
“We only saw a bus full of patients and since then we’ve had sleepless nights,” she said. Ncube, she said, was gone. “I haven’t seen her this week since it was announced that [Gauteng health MEC] Qedani Mahlangu had resigned. I hope the families who lost their family members find closure.”
Meanwhile, some members of the bereaved families, led by Christine Nxumalo, whose sister, Virginia Machpelah, died in August last year at Precious Angels, have united to file a class action against the department.
“It is sad that Mahlangu resigned without giving us answers,” she said. Machpelah spent two years at Life Esidimeni before she was dumped at Precious Angels. Nxumalo said her family was only told of her sister’s death two weeks thereafter. They finally found her sister’s body with the police’s help. “She was frail, dry, her eyes were hollow and you could literally see her bones. I was shocked to see my sister like this when I went to identify her body,” she said. “The only thing that helped me to identify her was a black spot between her front teeth.” She said the provincial health department promised the families a settlement that has yet to be determined. “We want closure with this whole thing. Settlement is the small part of accountability and it won’t bring our loved ones back,” she said. TALK TO US Who should be blamed for the death of these patients and what should the penalty be? SMS us on 35697 using the keyword HELL and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50
DEATH TRAP The Precious Angels home in Atteridgeville, western Pretoria