The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Gauteng has denied claims by the Gauteng Health that a settlement was reached with the family of a pensioner who was shackled to a hospital bench at the Mamelodi Hospital. News24 reports that SAHRC Gauteng chair Buang Jones said no out-of-court settlement had been reached with the family of Martha Marais, 76.
Health Department spokesperson Philani Mhlungu had earlier claimed the mediation process between the SAHRC and Marais family had been finalised and a settlement was reached. But hours later, Jones tweeted that no settlement had been reached between the family and department. "We are disappointed by the department for going public that a settlement has been reached, which is not correct," Jones added.
When contacted, Mhlungu requested that questions be sent to him before he could confirm or deny his earlier statement. The report says at the time of publishing, he had not responded.
Mhlungu said that the department had entered into a mediation process on 20 September with the family to resolve the issue outside court. "The parties have reached settlement and the matter has been finalised," Mhlungu said in a report in The Times. Mhlungu said retired judge Neels Claassen presided over the mediation process.
But family spokesperson Virginia Keppler said a settlement had not been reached.
The report says the SAHRC entered into the fray in May and said it would help Marais's family to see if they could get compensation from the department for the incident – which was captured on video. The commission said at the time that Marais deserved to be compensated for the trauma she had endured.
"We want to provide legal assistance to the family. We want to demand answers from the MEC of health and the CEO of the hospital because this happened under his/her watch. Part of our mandate is to hold the government accountable," Jones said in May. Jones said there had been a clear violation of Marais's human rights, and that there was clear humiliation and victimisation.
Neither the SAHRC nor the Gauteng Health are willing to budge on their stance, writes News24 in a later report.
Mhlungu maintained that the parties have reached a settlement and that the matter had been finalised. However, the SAHRC said there was a settlement proposal before them for consideration, but that neither party signed it. “Until such time that it is signed, we can't say we have reached a settlement," Jones told News24.
"The view of the family and the commission, which acts in a representative capacity for Ms Martha Marais, is that we have not reached a settlement. We are in discussions with the department regarding the terms of the proposed settlement.”News24 report The Times report News24 report