Fam­i­lies say no res­o­lu­tion with­out Mahlangu/6

Vic­tims say no res­o­lu­tion with­out Mahlangu

The Sunday Independent - - FRONT PAGE - ROLAND MPOFU

SOME of the fam­i­lies of vic­tims of the Life Esidi­meni psy­chi­atric saga want the ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ings stopped un­til for­mer Gaut­eng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and her chief ar­chi­tect tes­tify.

They say go­ing through the same process of lis­ten­ing to fel­low fam­i­lies of dead or sur­viv­ing pa­tients tak­ing turns giv­ing ev­i­dence is trau­matic. All they want is an­swers, and only Mahlangu’s tes­ti­mony can help.

The rel­a­tives who spoke to The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent on con­di­tion of anonymity were unan­i­mous in their stance that the Al­ter­na­tive Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion hear­ing (ADR), chaired by for­mer deputy chief jus­tice Dik­gang Moseneke, be tem­po­rar­ily halted un­til Mahlangu tes­ti­fied for her al­leged role in the deaths.

Sihle* said she’s an­gry with Mahlangu’s de­lay­ing tac­tics. She said go­ing daily to the hear­ing and hop­ing for an­swers was open­ing old wounds. “It’s drain­ing and ex­haust­ing to keep on hop­ing to get an­swers to what hap­pened to our rel­a­tives,” she said.

“We don’t want any more tes­ti­monies, this is a waste of our time with­out Mahlangu and her of­fi­cials ap­pear­ing.

“Why are we go­ing there (to the ADR) if the very peo­ple who killed our rel­a­tives are not will­ing to at­tend the hear­ings? Who are we rec­on­cil­ing with?” she asked.

It was re­vealed on Fri­day that the death toll from the Esidi­meni tragedy had in­creased to 143. It was re­ported this past week that Mahlangu has been sus­pended from the Global Bank­ing School in Lon- don be­cause of the se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions con­cern­ing her role in the Life Esidi­meni tragedy.

On Fri­day Mahlangu re­leased a state­ment through her lawyers deny­ing that she had run away or dis­ap­peared from the ar­bi­tra­tion.

“From the be­gin­ning, in line with my con­science, I have made it clear to all au­thor­i­ties in­volved that I’m avail­able to ap­pear be­fore the ar­bi­tra­tion. As such, I need no sub­poena,” she said.

But the fam­i­lies who lost their loved ones who were un­law­fully moved from Esidi­meni to NGOs are less im­pressed.

Sihle added that in her cul­ture, for an ar­bi­tra­tion process to be suc­cess­ful, both par­ties must be present at the hear­ing. “In our cul­ture when we fix or want to solve dis­putes or prob­lems the vic­tim and the ac­cused must be there to lis­ten and speak to each other. So this ADR process is an Amer­i­can way of fix­ing things.”

A rel­a­tive whose loved one sur­vived in the marathon project said the only the rea­son the hear­ing was pro­ceed­ing with­out Mahlangu was be­cause the lawyers were ben­e­fit­ing.

“Some of us, we are no longer at­tend­ing this ADR process be­cause it’s just a waste of time. Some of the of­fi­cials who have come to tes­tify are not telling us the whole truth, that is why we are call­ing for this process to be stopped un­til the very per­son who made this de­ci­sion tes­ti­fies.

“We know she was not go­ing to come vol­un­tar­ily as she re­fused be­fore to speak to us dur­ing our demon­stra­tions.”

The DA’s Gaut­eng spokesper­son on health, Jack Bloom, also called for Mahlangu to ap­pear be­fore the hear­ings, af­ter she was sus­pended from her stud­ies.

“She now has no ex­cuse to de­lay ap­pear­ing be­fore the Esidi­meni ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ings presided over by Judge Dik­gang Moseneke.

“It is im­per­a­tive that she re­turn as soon as pos­si­ble to ex­plain her ac­tions to the rel­a­tives of the Esidi­meni pa­tients who died be­cause of her cal­lous ac­tion.”

The hear­ings will con­tinue to­mor­row.

Mahlangu ac­cused the me­dia of un­fair re­port­ing. “... the sug­ges­tion that I used my stud­ies to es­cape ac­count­abil­ity is also false. It is clear that these in­ac­cu­rate re­ports seek to sug­gest that I’m not com­mit­ted to prin­ci­ples of ac­count­abil­ity, trans­parency and open­ness.

“As such, the re­ports are writ­ten in such a way that as a sup­posed ‘fugi­tive’ of sorts I must be sub­jected to an ar­bi­tra­tion of pub­lic opin­ion, ahead of the for­mal ar­bi­tra­tion process. No­body else has been sub­jected to this kind of treat­ment.

“Fi­nally, I hope jour­nal­ists and me­dia houses re­port in such a man­ner that shows re­spect and sen­si­tiv­ity to the ar­bi­tra­tion process so that the dig­nity of the fam­i­lies and the vic­tims is up­held at all times.”

PIC­TURE: BHEKIKHAYA MABASO/ANA

Ab­sent: For­mer Gaut­eng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu is be­ing called upon to at­tend the Life Esidi­meni hear­ings.

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