Pre­cious an­gels’ hell on earth

CityPress - - News - NTOMBIZODWA MAKHOBA ntombizodwa@city­press.co.za

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

PHOTO: EL­IZ­A­BETH SEJAKE / RAP­PORT

DEATH TRAP The Pre­cious An­gels home in At­teridgeville, western Pre­to­ria

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