Esidimeni: 'Kids died in 2007 move'

19 October 2017 - 07:31 By Katharine Child
Jabulisile Ngqondwana lost her first born child, Vusi Ngqondwana, to the Life Esidimeni tragedy. Family members and concerned parties attend the hearing hearings between the State and the families of victims in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
Jabulisile Ngqondwana lost her first born child, Vusi Ngqondwana, to the Life Esidimeni tragedy. Family members and concerned parties attend the hearing hearings between the State and the families of victims in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
Image: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

The Life Esidimeni relocation tragedy had a terrible precursor when 16 children were moved from a Life Esidimeni home to a Soweto NGO in 2007, with some dying as a result.

A sobbing manager, Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa, who had worked at Life Esidimeni facilities, recalled the incident 10 years ago as he testified at the arbitration hearings held to examine the Life Esidimeni tragedy in which at least 141 adult psychiatric patients died.

A distressed Mkhatshwa said: "Why couldn't we have learnt from the 2007 incident? Did we choose to just ignore it totally?"

WATCH | Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings: An emotional testimony by Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa

He did not go into the details of the 2007 move, but said: "Some died, and some returned dehydrated and in a poor state.''

In his testimony, he said: "I reminded [the Gauteng department of health] of that [incident] and wanted to be sure of no repeat of the same. I was assured the plan was fail-proof."

He warned the department not to move 1712 adult psychiatric patients to unknown NGOs and hospitals.

"For some people in Life Esidimeni [homes] the only family they knew was us."

Mkhatshwa said he asked former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu not to proceed with the plan.

In one letter, Mahlangu apparently retorted that she had slept under a stove growing up, and so these patients could as well.


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