Horse sta­ble con­verted into a home

Butch­ery turned into mor­tu­ary for Esidi­meni’s dead

Sowetan - - News - By Katharine Child

A butch­ery was con­verted into an il­le­gal mor­tu­ary and a horse sta­ble was con­verted into a home for men­tally ill pa­tients who were moved from Life Esidi­meni homes.

This emerged in the tes­ti­mony of the na­tional Health De­part­ment direc­tor-gen­eral, Pre­cious Male­bona Mat­soso, at the Life Esidi­meni ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ings in Jo­han­nes­burg.

The hear­ings are to get an­swers why more than 118 pa­tients died when moved from Esidi­meni’s in­sti­tu­tions.

More than 1 400 pa­tients were moved to var­i­ous NGOs across Gaut­eng‚ many of which were un­li­censed and not equipped to ac­com­mo­date men­tal pa­tients.

After the deaths‚ Mat­soso be­came very in­volved and vis­ited an NGO that had held pa­tients. She learned the fa­cil­ity was con­verted from a horse sta­ble.

Mat­soso also went to a day of mourn­ing with af­fected fam­i­lies who had lost loved ones. One told her that a fu­neral par­lour that the rel­a­tive had gone to while search­ing for a miss­ing body was in fact a former butch­ery.

Mat­soso said: “She [the de­ceased rel­a­tive] knew Saulsville and At­teridgeville‚ very well. The fa­cil­ity she was re­ferred to was a butch­ery. It is on those ba­sis that I de­cided to do an in­ves­ti­ga­tion my­self.”

Mat­soso im­me­di­ately went to the con­verted butch­ery and tried to gain ac­cess‚ stay­ing there till 11pm. With the po­lice’s help, she traced the owner who at first re­fused to come to the build­ing un­til po­lice fetched her.

The owner said she didn’t have keys and drove around with po­lice look­ing for them.

The next day, how­ever, she had found her keys and bod­ies were found in­side. It did not seem bod­ies in­side were linked to Esidi­meni‚ said Mat­soso. But this in­ci­dent at the un­li­censed‚ con­verted butch­ery led Mat­soso to the fu­neral com­pany Put You To Rest that was trans­port­ing Esidi­meni bod­ies to dif­fer­ent in­sti­tu­tions un­der its Lim­popo li­cence.

Put You To Rest did not have stor­age fa­cil­i­ties for bod­ies in Gaut­eng but was keep­ing them and trans­port­ing them, in con­tra­ven­tion of laws.

The Health De­part­ment also helped trace bod­ies that had been given a pau­pers’ burial by fu­neral par­lours and then linked them to fam­ily mem­bers so they could re­bury them.

Ear­lier in the day, it was re­vealed that there are 59 un­traced peo­ple who were dis­charged from Life Esidi­meni‚ who have not been found but are re­ceiv­ing pen­sion or dis­abil­ity grants.

Ad­di­tion­ally‚ there are “seven corpses that are yet to be iden­ti­fied and fam­i­lies still to be traced”, Mat­soso said.

Former deputy chief jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke‚ who is chair­ing the hear­ing‚ said to ad­vo­cate Adila Has­sim: “Hu­man re­mains in a butch­ery – sounds omi­nous ...”

Has­sim said: “The mor­tu­ary had been a butch­ery in a pre­vi­ous life.”

Na­tional Health De­part­ment direc­torgen­eral Pre­cious Male­bona Mat­soso

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