Life Esidimeni hearings: 'No help from health dept'

Esidimeni: Cops forced to go to court to get vital documents for probe

27 October 2017 - 06:57
By Staff reporter
Life Esidimeni. File photo
Image: Google Photo Life Esidimeni. File photo

Police have been forced to turn to the courts in a bid to get the Gauteng health department to release information on the deaths of Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients.

This is according to senior police officer Major-General Charles Johnson, who testified at the arbitration hearings into the scandal yesterday.

"What we experience in the team is that our investigation is delayed by the non-co-operation of the Gauteng department of health,'' he told retired Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who is chairing the hearings.

"We approached the department on various occasions for medical records and other evidence that we could use in our investigation but co-operation was lacking," he said.

"We don't have the hospital records. We don't have the clinical records of the people that were moved and we do not have most of the information, clinical records, medical records, from the NGOs.

"Most of these files from the NGOs are with the department . When we approached the NGOs they said the files are with the department." 

The hearings heard that 141 people died after being transferred from Life Esidimeni care centres to NGOs, many of which were ill-equipped to care for patients.

Johnson, who is based at SAPS headquarters in Pretoria, said he had initially set up a five-person team, but later realised that the "magnitude" of the investigation meant that the team needed to be expanded to eight.

He had initially expected to conclude the investigation by next month, but has now realised this will not happen.

He said the investigation team decided to go to court and summon department head Dr Ernest Kenoshi.

Johnson said section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act allowed police to summon a witness who is reluctant to provide evidence to appear before a magistrate.

The case has been heard three times and will return on December 12.

"Since this matter has been in court we received some documentation in dribs and drabs.

"We need to now communicate with the department through [the attorney], who is representing the department. So, it frustrates our investigation," Johnson said.

Moseneke seemed shocked by this revelation, saying: "The department referred the police and your investigating unit to their attorneys? That you communicate with them through their attorneys? Is that what you're saying?"

"That's what I am saying," Johnson replied.