Esidi­meni de­ba­cle: SIU to in­ves­ti­gate

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - CHANTALL PRES­ENCE

PRES­I­DENT Ja­cob Zuma has signed a Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit (SIU) proclamation sanc­tion­ing a probe into the role of the Gauteng Health Depart­ment in the trans­fer of pa­tients from the Life Esidi­meni Cen­tre to sev­eral NGOs, which re­sulted in the deaths of more than 100 psy­chi­atric pa­tients.

A state­ment is­sued by the Pres­i­dency yes­ter­day said the SIU would in­ves­ti­gate the depart­ment’s pro­cure­ment of 28 NGOs in whose care the pa­tients were left, and whether the pay­ments made to the NGOs were “not fair, trans­par­ent, eq­ui­table and con­trary to ap­pli­ca­ble leg­is­la­tion”.

The unit would also look into “any un­law­ful or im­proper act or omis­sion by of­fi­cials of the depart­ment, owner or staff of the en­ti­ties re­ferred to above”, as well as whether any unau­tho­rised, ir­reg­u­lar or fruit­less and waste­ful spend­ing took place, among other things.

In May, Health Min­is­ter Aaron Mot­soaledi said dur­ing his bud­get speech in Par­lia­ment that the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity was pre­par­ing to open in­quests into the deaths of the pa­tients, who died mostly of de­hy­dra­tion, star­va­tion and hy­pother­mia.

“The NPA have just re­quested all the files be­cause they want to start con­duct­ing in­quests into the cause of death and start pros­e­cu­tions of peo­ple who need to be pros­e­cuted,” Mot­soaledi said at the time.

The min­is­ter said progress had been made in im­ple­ment­ing all 18 of the health om­buds­man’s rec­om­men­da­tions, promis­ing the Speaker of the Na­tional Assem­bly a full re­port.

A po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the deaths was un­der way, dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings against gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who were im­pli­cated in the om­buds­man’s re­port had com­menced, the South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion was prob­ing hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, and the process of clos­ing down NGOs that do not meet stan­dards was in full swing, he said.

Mot­soaledi also re­vealed that he had ap­proved re­vised guide­lines, which were drawn up by a team of law and men­tal­health ex­perts for the li­cens­ing and reg­u­la­tion of com­mu­ni­ty­based fa­cil­i­ties that deal with peo­ple with men­tal and in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties. – ANA

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