Family says it is denied closure
Brother cannot be part of Esidimeni hearings
ASoweto family whose member died after being transferred from Life Esidimeni before the marathon migration that led to the deaths of more than 141 psychiatric patients, say they will never find closure because they have been excluded from the alternative dispute resolution process.
According to Lucas Mphuthi, the brother of Martha Mphuthi, who died in 2013 at Mosego Home, an NGO in Krugersdorp, his sister had been at Life Esidimeni in Randfontein for more than 30 years and was doing well until she was transferred to Mosego Home without their knowledge.
“I used to visit Martha at Esidimeni and she was doing well in terms of health, and her morale used to be high, until one day I was told she had been transferred to another NGO called Mosego.
“When I asked them (Esidimeni social workers) they told me that she was transferred with other patients because they were busy renovating.
“They promised me that as soon as they had completed renovating they would bring her back, but this never happened.
“They also told me that the reason why Martha was transferred was because she was doing well and the only patients who were left behind were those whose health was critical.
“When I went to see her at Mosego within a space of a month she was so thin and to my shock she was in a wheelchair. Martha asked me to take her home, she was hysterical and crying.
“At Mosego she was not getting food and medication. I promised I would come and take her the following week but when I went there after a month I was told she had died more than three weeks earlier. Her death certificate stated she had died of natural causes, which I don’t believe is true.”
The arbitration hearing led by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke is expected to resume on Wednesday.
Former director of mental health in Gauteng, Makgabo Manamela, could testify after being subpoenaed on an urgent basis by lawyers representing the bereaved families.
Manamela’s possible testimony is among three testimonies identified by Moseneke as “the most important” to the families getting closure. Manamela, suspended former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and Health Department head Barney Selebano are among the executives who played a role in the Esidimeni project.
Mphuthi said he had been to the offices of Gauteng Health Department as well as the office of the Gauteng premier seeking to have his sister’s death investigated but with no success.
“When I went to the premier’s office I was told by a gentlemen called Bafana Malunga that my sister’s death was not part of those investigated by the health ombudsman, so I could not be part of the alternative dispute resolution process.
“He said I must open a case with the police if I wanted the cause of my sister’s death investigated.”
Gauteng provincial spokesperson Thabo Masebe said people such as Mphuthi had been excluded from the alternative dispute resolution process because they did not fall under what health ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba was investigating.
“Remember that the alternative dispute resolution process came about from the recommendations of the ombud to look at the gross negligence which took place when the marathon project was conducted,” Masebe said.
“People like Mphuthi should approach the minister of health and the Gauteng government so that we can look at how the government can assist them.”
Esidimeni family committee spokesperson Andrew Pietersen said families that had been excluded from the alternative dispute resolution process could join the committee, although this did not necessarily mean that they would then be included in the process.
Inclusion in the alternative dispute resolution process would depend on when the patient was moved from Esidimeni, he said.
“I think the cut-off date is set at around October 2015.”