Still no answers as Esidimeni hearings enter final day

31 January 2018 - 08:07 By Katharine Child
Retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke is leading the hearings into the Life Esidimeni deaths.
Retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke is leading the hearings into the Life Esidimeni deaths.
Image: Alon Skuy

As the Life Esidimeni hearings wrap up on Wednesday‚ the motive for the tragedy is still unclear.

The hearings aim to find out why 1‚700 mentally ill patients were moved from three psychiatric homes into ill-equipped NGOs in 2016‚ leading to the deaths of 143 patients. The hearings were also set up to give closure and financial redress to the victims' families. 

Retired Justice Dikgang Moseneke‚ who is chairing the hearings‚ told the second last witness‚ Premier David Makhura‚ he was still "struggling" to work out the reasons it happened.

Moseneke said to Makhura: "The families are still struggling with the decisions and the real motives." 

Makhura said: "I am struggling with understanding the motive."

"Could it be money?" asked Moseneke. 

Makhura said he hoped the Special Investigating Unit would shed more light on events. 

Makhura was in charge of the Gauteng government when the move from the homes happened in 2016. 

Since the very first week of the hearings in October‚ Moseneke has asked most witness what drove the decision of the health department to move patients into ill-equipped‚ illegal NGOs.

Seniors officials testified there was severe financial pressure on the department of health and ending the contract with Life Esidimeni homes was a cost-saving measure.

Former MEC for health Qedani Mahlangu said under oath: "You rob Peter to pay Paul at any one time." 

But on Tuesday‚ Gauteng Finance MEC Barbara Creecy said cost cutting was never supposed to lead to departments stopping essential services. She said government departments were meant to reduce spending on entertainment‚ travel‚ venues‚ catering and consultants.

Makhura started off his testimony at the hearings apologising to the families.

"Apologising doesn't mean a lot if there is no truth. At the end of my testimony‚ families will come closer to the truth‚" he said. 

But while witnesses have explained what happened‚ they haven't said why. 

Creecy also apologised that the tragedy happened under her watch as Finance MEC. She said it was a "series of events that filled her with shame". But she doesn't know why they occurred.

The Life Esidemeni hearings continued on Tuesday, January 30 2018. Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Gauteng Finance MEC Barbara Creecy testified.