Esidimeni hearings: government will have to compensate victims’ families

31 January 2018 - 13:56 By Katharine Child
Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke is heading the arbitration hearings between the State and the families of victims in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke is heading the arbitration hearings between the State and the families of victims in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
Image: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

As the Life Esidimeni hearings come to a close‚ Justice Dikgang Moseneke has thanked the Gauteng government for organising them and reminded the premier he will be paying out to victims' families.

Wednesday is the final day of witnesses' testimony after more than ten weeks of hearings.

The health ombudsman‚ Malegapuru Makgoba‚ who first investigated the deaths‚ suggested the hearings be held to give closure to the families who lost loved ones.

Premier David Makhura spearheaded the hearings and frequently met with the families as the process unfolded‚ said Moseneke.

The premier's office paid for the hearings‚ with R13-million set down for three weeks in October‚ but the hearings took far longer‚ stretching into December and going on for about two weeks in January.

Makhura's spokesman‚ Thabo Masebe‚ says the amount paid for the hearings will be much higher than R13-million as they took much longer than three weeks. The hearing budget covers the cost of 10 advocates‚ lawyers‚ breakfast‚ lunch‚ dessert for all attendees and the venue. Family members have also been bussed in to the hearings each day.

Following closing arguments next week‚ the retired Constitutional Court judge has 30 days to determine an award for each family in a first of its kind settlement. Usually negligence payouts can only be for loss of earnings and the medical expenses of those harmed. In this case there will be an amount attached to the lives of the mentally-ill who earned nothing.

Moseneke praised the government for agreeing to the arbitration hearings and admitting to their liability.

"It was good of government to be so magnanimous and not fight over the merits of the case and the cause of people's] death. What remains for me as arbitrator is to find equitable compensation in a variety of forms but also in money."

He praised Makhura.

"You did much to implement the recommendations of the ombudsman. You did much to make sure the hearings work well. It has been a wonderful road. I just want to say it publicly." The families as well as the minister of health and Gauteng premier approached Moseneke to ask him to lead the hearings.

Moseneke explained that hearings were about a financial apology and learning the truth.

"The one part was to find closure. The one part was to find truth. The other part was equitable redress. This is an arbitration and Premier you'll have to pay. I need to find equitable compensation."

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