President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended his recent widely criticised walk with former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, on whose watch at least 144 mental health patients died in terrible circumstances.
“Qedani Mahlangu‚ like any other South African‚ is a person who must be treated as a citizen of this country. She is a comrade and whatever we have done‚ it does not mean we have to treat people with hatred and rejection and with total disdain‚” Ramaphosa is quoted in The Times as saying.
Gauteng Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow health MEC Jack Bloom expressed shock at Ramaphosa’s walk besides Mahlangu during his trip from Regina Mundi church in Rockville‚ Soweto‚ to Mangalane garage in Chiawelo.
Th report says under Qedani Mahlangu’s watch at least 144 Life Esidimeni patients died. She later resigned as MEC. Ramaphosa hugged Mahlangu warmly and said that she should not be rejected as she had been held accountable‚ first by resigning and then appearing before the arbitration hearings headed by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Bloom said that in his view‚ Ramaphosa’s embrace of Mahlangu is grossly insensitive to the memory of those who died. “She has still not accepted full accountability for the Esidimeni deaths‚ shifting the blame onto officials.
“Despite all the Esidimeni horrors‚ the ANC still treats her as a comrade and she remains a member of the ANC’s Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee. After all this time‚ the ANC’s Integrity Committee has not made a finding against her in this matter‚” Bloom said.
He added that true justice will only be served when Mahlangu appears in court on charges that should include culpable homicide and even murder.
Gauteng provincial spokesperson, Thabo Masebe, said in an eNCA report, meanwhile that Mahlangu cannot be disciplined internally. He said this was because she resigned before steps could be taken against her.
Masebe said in the report that disciplinary processes had been initiated with regard to Mahlangu, but after she resigned they were hamstrung because they could only deal with departmental matters.
Saying other matters would be handled by other agencies Masebe urged them to “continue with their investigations and should they reach the conclusion that anyone should face consequences, we fully encourage that such processes should be initiated”.