By re-electing former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to the ANC Gauteng’s provincial executive committee, the provincial government has shown no accountability for the Life Esidimeni tragedy. City Press reports that this is according to the South African Federation for Mental Health, who believed that despite there being evidence linking Mahlangu’s direct involvement to Life Esidimeni, the government had shown disrespect toward the families of those who lost their lives during the transferring of the patients.
“We see this inaction as evidence of the provincial government taking zero accountability for their actions. Furthermore, their apologies during the arbitration hearings now seem to be nothing but ‘compulsory’ public lip service being paid to the distraught families while in the camera’s eye. As traumatised families seek closure, this is sure to raise their ire and reopen wounds,” the federation says.
The report says Mahlangu was voted into the committee at the recent ANC provincial elections. She was implicated in the tragedy in 2016 when, under her watch, the lives of 143 mental health care users died after the government transferred more than 1,711 mental health care users to unlicensed and ill-equipped non-governmental organisations across the province.
“We urge government to take accountability for the Life Esidimeni tragedy and to immediately remove Mahlangu from the provincial executive committee as a sign of respect to the families of those who lost their lives in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. It’s the right thing to do. And they should know it,” the federation’s deputy director, Leon de Beer, said.
The Life Esidimeni family committee representing the family members affected by the loss of their loved ones has also expressed their anger at Mahlangu’s appointment, when they criticised the ANC. “If the ANC represents the people and is for the people‚ then how are these elections reflective of the will of the people?” they said.
Meanwhile, the report says Gauteng ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile expressed the need for the ANC to have a look at Mahlangu’s appointment through the party’s integrity commission, when he was answering questions from the Cape Town Press Club. “We have created an integrity commission and if there are allegations against leaders‚ they will appear‚” Mashatile said.
“If the warnings were heeded, the trauma surrounding the deaths of loved ones could have been avoided. This alone should have been reason enough for her to never hold any leadership position again. It is simply incomprehensible why the ANC has not prohibited her nomination for re-election into a senior leadership position,” de Beer said.
The FF Plus’s Philip van Staden believed that Mahlangu was being protected by the ANC. “That raises the question of why the ANC is protecting her,” he said.
The report says after the Life Esidimeni tragedy, which claimed the lives of 143 patients, Mahlangu resigned as the Gauteng MEC for Health.
The ANC had not taken any disciplinary steps against Mahlangu, because the party’s “integrity commission is still busy with an investigation”. “In the interim, health services in the province have collapsed and millions of lives are at stake every day because there are no proper public health services,” said van Staden.
Jack Bloom, the Democratic Alliance’s Gauteng shadow Health MEC writes, meanwhile, in Politicsweb that Mahlangu has substantial wealth that should be appropriated to pay some of the Life Esidimeni R159m arbitration award.
Bloom writes: “The Democratic Alliance has established that Mahlangu cashed in her R16m pension fund when she resigned in February last year, leaving her with a nest egg of about R11m after tax. She lives in an expensive property in Bedfordview which is worth about R5m and recently paid R3.9m for a property in the Johannesburg suburb of Kensington, apparently to be developed as an investment.
“Last year she paid for a university course in England, and lived there for several months, which must have cost about half a million rand. Mahlangu is even able to afford two professional bodyguards who drive and escort her, which costs about R50,000 a month.
“Incredibly, she has even staged a political comeback with her re-election to the ANC’s provincial executive committee in Gauteng.
“Last week I wrote to Premier David Makhura to request him to use the Apportionment of Damages Act to ensure that Mahlangu and two former senior health officials pay a share of the R159m Esidimeni arbitration award.
“Makhura has not yet responded, but if he fails to force her to pay from her own pocket it will show that he is not serious about holding her to account for the Esidimeni disaster. She is living a life of luxury and has yet to appear in court for her crimes.
“Her assets are probably worth more than R20m in total which should be seized by court action to pay a fair share of the financial recompense to Esidimeni victims.
“Premier Makhura should use the legal route against her that we have proposed so that taxpayers don’t have to foot the total bill for her cruel and negligent deeds.”