DA leader Mmusi Maimane lead a protest to the office of the Gauteng Premier David Makhura following the mistreatment and death of over 100 mentally ill patients.
His Statement reads below;
My fellow South Africans
You can judge a government by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens.
By the length it goes to in order to care for people who live on the fringes of society and at the mercy of the state.
By the way it shields these defenceless people from neglect, from abuse and from suffering.
That’s the benchmark of a caring government.
But this ANC government here in Gauteng did none of those things. In fact, it did the exact opposite. It left more than a thousand of its most vulnerable citizens in the hands of people it knew nothing about, and then turned its back on them.
This ANC government allowed more than a hundred mental health patients to die from starvation, dehydration, diarrhoea, pneumonia and seizures.
This ANC government calls these tragic deaths due to abandonment and neglect a “mistake”. But this was far more than a mistake.
What happened to these people required deliberate decisions – decisions that were made in the face of repeated warnings of the disastrous outcome that would follow.
We are here today to let this ANC government know that this is not something they can simply walk away from.
The days when this ANC government could sweep a tragedy like this under the carpet with no repercussions are gone.
The days when this ANC government could pick one or two scapegoats to throw under the bus are gone.
In the past, the ANC could lump the blame on one person and then sacrifice this fall guy to the public and the media while the rest of them got off scot free.
We saw them do this with Marikana. We saw them do this with Nkandla. We saw them do this with the Guptas’ Waterkloof landing. As soon as the scandal breaks, one person ends up under the bus and the rest walk away.
But we cannot allow this any longer. The families of the Esidimeni victims deserve better. The people of South Africa deserve better.
The resignation of MEC Qedani Mahlangu will not make the Esidimeni tragedy go away. All those responsible for these deaths must follow her example. And this begins with Premier David Makhura.
Saying “I didn’t know” is simply not good enough. If you didn’t know, Premier, then you weren’t doing your job.
But your ignorance is not entirely true either, is it Premier Makhura? You knew very early on what was happening.
Because how could you not know when your own Health MEC issued multiple statements on the issue?
How could you not know when the families of the patients held three separate protests outside the Gauteng Health Department offices?
How could you not know when eNCA’s Checkpoint investigated the matter, along with various other media reports?
How could you not know when you were named as a respondent in two related court cases?
How could you not know when the DA’s Jack Bloom repeatedly warned you what was happening?
You knew, Premier Makhura. You knew, but you chose not to act.
You were told as far back as November 2015, in the debate on the Health Annual Report, of the grave dangers of moving these patients.
And even after you were told of the first confirmed deaths, you did nothing. For 141 days you let Qedani Mahlangu remain in her post, as the death toll was rising.
Only when the shameful report by the Health Ombudsman surfaced were you spurred into action. But that was too little, too late, Premier Makhura. The families of the victims deserve more. The people of South Africa deserve more.
We fully support the swift implementation of the recommendations of the Ombudsman’s report, but these recommendations simply don’t go far enough. If we are to find justice and closure for the families of the victims, then these four steps are critical:
- Premier David Makhura must immediately resign. Every day that he remains in office is a day without justice for the victims.
- The President must establish a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to find answers to the many questions that still remain. The lives of these patients are of no less value than those who were killed in the Marikana massacre. Both these tragedies are deserving of the same scrutiny.
- SAPS must launch an inquest into each and every death that followed the transfer of patients from Life Esidimeni Hospital.
- The families of all the victims must receive financial compensation from the government. No amount of money can ever compensate for the tragic losses they suffered, but they deserve no less than a just settlement.
This ANC government will never delete the stain of this tragedy from its conscience. But that does not mean it can’t do the right thing now.
My fellow South Africans,
There is a story that many people like to tell. This story says that the ANC in Gauteng are not like the rest of the ANC.
It says that people like David Makhura, Parks Tau and Paul Mashatile are somehow different; somehow better than Jacob Zuma’s ANC.
But this story is not true. And the sooner people realise this, the better. There is no difference between Premier Makhura and the rest of the ANC. They are one and the same.
We’ve seen it in the widespread waste and corruption that has gone unpunished under Premier Makhura. We’ve seen it in his inability to fight e-tolls in this province. And now we have seen it in the deaths of more than a hundred people whose lives he was entrusted with.
Ultimately both the ANC national government and this ANC provincial government here in Gauteng will be voted out by the people they have abandoned. But that’s not enough.
Premier Makhura cannot stay in office until 2019. His government is responsible for the deaths of more than a hundred mental health patients – deaths that would have been prevented had he listened to the many warnings.
Forget about passing the buck, Premier. Forget about finding scapegoats. Just do what’s right and resign.
Nothing will bring the victims back. But nothing is a bigger insult to their memory than Premier David Makhura remaining in office.