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HomeMedico-LegalAfriForum’s private prosecution unit grills former Gauteng Health deputy-director

AfriForum’s private prosecution unit grills former Gauteng Health deputy-director

At the ongoing inquest into the Life Esidemeni tragedy, last week (Thursday 20 January) Adv Phyllis Vorster, prosecutor at AfriForumʼs Private Prosecution Unit, cross-examined Hanna Jacobus, previous deputy director in charge of non-governmental organisations at Gauteng Health, who said she could not take responsibility for “the condition in which the patients found themselves” .

In 2016, the department moved 144 psychiatric patients from Life Esidimeni to various non-governmental organisations to, among other things, save money. The transfers were despite evidence that various facilities were unfit for human occupation, as well as warnings by experts that the patients should not be moved. The patients subsequently died of malnutrition and neglect.

Vorster put it to Jacobus that she issued licences to NGOs that did not adhere to standards to adequately look after patients and also, on various occasions, did not follow the correct procedures, as there were no service delivery agreements or budgets in place to provide for the proper care of patients.

“It also appeared from Vorsterʼs examination that Jacobus, as deputy director in charge of NGOs, was more concerned about the contracts for the provision of linen than the patients themselves”, the Politicsweb statement from AfriForum notes.

Jacobus, said the statement, was aware that at least one of the NGOs had no registered doctors or nurses. Jacobus testified that she had done nothing to correct these staff shortages, which she knew about, because she did not go to these facilities to do inspections, but to provide assistance with “challenging patients”.

She added that she could not take responsibility for the condition in which the patients found themselves and, in answer to a question by Vorster, said she did not know who should have taken responsibility. This was despite being in charge of the contracts with the NGOs to which patients were relocated.

“It has already been five years since government failed these vulnerable people. However, there has been no prosecution, and it seems no one is prepared to accept responsibility for this total lack of respect for human dignity and life,” said Wico Swanepoel, prosecutor at AfriForum.

Solidarity Helping Hand and AfriForumʼs Private Prosecution Unit are currently supporting Sandra de Villiers in the judicial inquest into the death of her brother, Jaco Stols, in 2016, during the tragedy. Vorster and Swanepoel have been appointed by Helping Hand as a watching brief to represent De Villiers during the inquest.


PoliticsWeb article – Life Esidimeni inquest: Private Prosecution Unit cross-examines previous deputy director in charge of NGOs (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


No inspections or process followed, says ex-Life Esidimeni official


Inquest roundup: Life Esidimeni leader wanted to stop patient transfers


Buck-passing at Life Esidimeni inquest


Life Esidimeni inquest: one nurse to 40 patients



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