Murder charges can be brought - Bloom on Life Esidimeni

19 March 2018 - 16:47 By Katharine Child
Jack Bloom. File picture
Jack Bloom. File picture
Image: Elizabeth Sejake

Democratic Alliance Gauteng health spokesman Jack Bloom believes Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s arbitration judgment opens the way for murder charges to be brought against officials behind the Esidimeni saga.

Bloom says he will even lay them if necessary.

Moseneke in his ruling‚ found that Gauteng health department officials acted irrationally when ending the Life Esidimeni contract and moving patients into ill-equipped NGOs. He found senior officials including former MEC Qedani Mahlangu breached the Constitution.

The Constitution requires officials to act rationally and not make arbitrary decisions.

Moseneke ruled such a breach of Constitution‚ allowed him to award R1-million in constitutional damages to families of 67 people who died as well as 68 survivors who were represented by Legal Aid. Moseneke found it was impossible that Mahlangu‚ Gauteng health MEC at the time‚ did not foresee that moving mentally ill patients into under-funded‚ inexperienced NGOs would cause death or suffering.

He said: “Her overall conduct was irrational‚ inexplicable‚ highly reckless and led to deaths of 144 users and torture of 1‚400 users. Her stance that she could not reasonably foresee death might ensue... is untenable and cannot be believed.”

Bloom said that the finding that Mahlangu should have foreseen the deaths thus made her guilty of negligence and he felt she could be charged with murder or culpable homicide.

"Moseneke has basically laid out all the evidence and said police do your job.”

Moseneke repeatedly found that top officials had lied.

"It is indeed remarkable in the face of such carnage of patients that were under the direct care of the department that none of the three top leaders and architects of the tragedy had a grasp of the numbers of deaths... I conclude they falsely claimed ignorance of the actual number of deaths."

Esidimeni family representatives Andrew Pietersen‚ whose uncle survived the move to an NGO‚ was pleased with the ruling.

Pietersen praised Moseneke‚ saying the judge “sent out a strong message that government officials must be able to do the right thing”.

But he added "officials to blame must be criminally prosecuted and incarcerated or what is there to stop another Esidimeni?” Pietersen said it was in the interests of society that justice must prevail.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura‚ who has met with the Esidimeni family committee many times over the last year‚ said he kept reporting back to them on the police's work.

Makhura also said he had faith the police would pursue the officials responsible for the deaths.

"They have their teeth back in this new dawn and will act without fear or favour or prejudice."

He said he understood the scepticism about police pursing criminals‚ but suggested that with a new president the justice system would work.