Families say no resolution without Mahlangu/6
Victims say no resolution without Mahlangu
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.”
Absent: Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu is being called upon to attend the Life Esidimeni hearings.