Esidi­meni toll now 100 – and count­ing

Ombud tells MPs more fa­tal­i­ties are ex­pected

The Star Late Edition - - NEWS - SIYABONGA MKHWANAZI MAY­I­BONGWE MAQHINA

HEALTH om­buds­man Pro­fes­sor Male­ga­puru Mak­goba has warned the gov­ern­ment of pos­si­bly more psy­chi­atric pa­tient deaths as the Esidi­meni tally climbed above 100.

Mak­goba told Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day more pa­tient deaths were ex­pected as the num­bers kept grow­ing daily.

MPs also took a swipe at for­mer Gaut­eng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, ac­cus­ing her of bel­liger­ence and treat­ing them like of­fi­cials when in Par­lia­ment.

Mem­bers of the House and Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces (NCOP) said yes­ter­day they had to re­mind Mahlangu they were not of­fi­cials, but MPs.

Health Min­is­ter Aaron Mot­soaledi and Mak­goba yes­ter­day ap­peared be­fore the joint com­mit­tees on health in the As­sem­bly and the NCOP.

Mak­goba de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion at Life Esidi­meni as sham­bolic and chaotic. He said the NGOs were not pre­pared when sev­eral pa­tients were trans­ferred to their fa­cil­i­ties.

He said that de­spite his re­port record­ing 94 deaths, this num­ber would go up as more deaths were un­cov­ered.

“From the data that is com­ing we are above 100, I am count­ing. The fig­ure that is com­ing, we are above 100, we are still cor­re­lat­ing,” said Mak­goba.

He added Mot­soaledi would have to de­cide on the cut-off point on the deaths. He kept re­ceiv­ing re­ports of more deaths every day.

Mot­soaledi said there were in­con­sis­ten­cies in the re­ports by Mahlangu, the health om­buds­man and his min­is­te­rial ad­vi­sory team.

While Mahlangu had said in the Gaut­eng pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture in Septem­ber there were 36 deaths recorded in the fa­cil­i­ties, his ad­vi­sory team had within two days found there were 60 deaths and the om­buds­man at the time had noted 77 deaths. Mot­soaledi said this showed Mahlangu and the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture did not know what was go­ing on.

Mak­goba re­it­er­ated that the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment had stuck to the 36 num­ber of deaths when the num­ber was ris­ing.

“When the MEC made the an­nounce­ment in the leg­is­la­ture that 36 pa­tients had died, 77 pa­tients had al­ready died by then,” said Mak­goba.

“She did not know then. She did not know by Novem­ber 29. I don’t know what to call that,” he said.

Mak­goba said the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Author­ity, the po­lice and foren­sic pathol­o­gists would de­cide on the pros­e­cu­tion of in­di­vid­u­als. Al­ready more than 10 se­nior of­fi­cials had been sus­pended.

MPs in the joint health com­mit­tees com­plained that Mahlangu did not treat them with the re­spect they de­served when she ap­peared in Par­lia­ment.

Cathy Dlamini, chair­per­son of the health and so­cial ser­vices com­mit­tee in the NCOP, said that when it in­vited pro­vin­cial MECs last year, Mahlangu “had an at­ti­tude”.

She said the is­sue had been raised with Mahlangu.

The act­ing chair­per­son of the par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on health, Fish Mahlalela, said com­mit­tee mem­bers were con­cerned about Mahlangu’s at­ti­tude when she ap­peared be­fore them.

“We had a meet­ing with the MEC. She wanted to con­trol us. We told her that we are not of­fi­cials,” he said.

He said it ap­peared that Mahlangu ruled with an iron fist. “We ex­pe­ri­enced that our­selves un­til we told her we are not ac­count­ing to you,” said Mahlalela. IN­DE­PEN­DENT Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Direc­torate boss Robert McBride has hit back at act­ing na­tional com­mis­sioner of po­lice Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Kho­motso Phahlane for claim­ing not to have been no­ti­fied about a probe into him.

Brief­ing the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on po­lice yes­ter­day, McBride said Phahlane’s re­cent de­nials to the com­mit­tee were false.

“We have doc­u­men­tary proof that not only was he

No sour notes

PIC­TURE:

Chil­dren look at a sculp­ture made with lemons and or­anges which de­picts the mu­si­cal com­edy The Lion King dur­ing the 84th Lemon Fes­ti­val around the theme “Broad­way” in Men­ton, France, yes­ter­day. ERIC GAILLARD / REUTERS

GRIM TIDINGS: Pro­fes­sor Male­ga­puru Mak­goba

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