Maverick Citizen


Portraits of Lives Lost: ‘I felt something was wrong’ — the lamentation of a grieving mother

Portraits of Lives Lost: ‘I felt something was wrong’ — the lamentation of a grieving mother
Anna Modise and her late son Lucky Jeremiah. (Photo: Mark Lewis)

Maverick Citizen is running a series of weekly portraits of those who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy and the stories of the loved ones left behind. Harriet Perlman, Darnell Nxumalo and photographer Mark Lewis have been interviewing families as part of an ongoing memorial and advocacy website.

The inquest into the Life Esidimeni tragedy will determine whether there can be any criminal liability for the deaths of 144 mental healthcare patients who died in the care of the South African public health system. They died from neglect, starvation, torture and abuse. 

The inquest, being held via Zoom, is often mired in legal debate and technical mishaps. It can be easy to forget that people are at the heart of this horrific human tragedy.  

Their lives and stories matter. The inquest is primarily about their pain, struggle for answers and the ongoing fight for justice. 

The photograph above was taken at a party at Life Esidimeni Randfontein. Even though he was blind and couldn’t talk, Jeremiah loved parties. His mother Anna, says she really wanted to bring him home for his 50th birthday.

Jeremiah was moved to Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre without Anna knowing and she spent two months desperately looking for him.

“I felt something was wrong,” she says.

In July, Anna eventually found out that he was at Precious Angels. She called and asked the person on the phone if Jeremiah Modise was there and how he was.

“I can’t say anything. Who are you?” the person said.

“I am his mother,” Anna replied and the person put down the phone. She tried calling again.

Eventually, she was called by Precious Angels who told her that Jeremiah had died. If she didn’t fetch the body, they would bury him. Anna then spent three days trying to find Jeremiah’s body.

“My God! All I wanted was my son’s body, and I drove so far just to find him.”

Finally, she found her son’s decomposed body in the mortuary of the hospital. 

“I can never forget how he looked there. I can never get that picture out my mind. No mother should have to find her child like that.” DM

This series of weekly portraits of those who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy and the stories of the loved ones left behind are also available on the website. 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Deborah Ewing says:

    “They died from neglect, starvation, torture and abuse.” Sounds like some patients were also kidnapped. How could there not be criminal liability?

  • JULIE BARNES says:

    The Life Esidimeni tragedy is one of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve ever come across. These weekly portraits are wonderful tributes to the poor souls who lost their lives at the hands of the SA public healthcare system, and their grieving families. Criminal liability is the least of what should happen to the perpetrators.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Preying on the weak and destitute,adding to this article what DM has said in another article,that the liberators (ANC)should be charged with crimes against humanity,when in 94 we set out to become a new united South Africa,the goverment of liberators lost the plot for becoming an elitist group of thieves splashing tax money on luxury cars palatial houses etc.What was ever noble about that.Instead of securing a better future for all the rot started peaking when No 1 (Zuma) and his cronies took charge.Corruption ,corruption corruption et al!!!Every international crime syndicate operates in SA.Having had the chance to really tackle gangsterism(crimes against humanity)legal fundis and the ilk are looking at the money angle.Collusion with overseas companies.SA citizens are regarded as trash by those that were elected to serve us(spare me the sanctimonious “We are there to serve you and fight for your rights Nobody got rights.We are at the grace of the goverment in charge, we work, we toil, we pay taxes, we are law abiding.What do we get no “GRAVY SAUCE”That is the privilege of the well connected elitist goverment royalty.There motto is not “let them eat cakes there motto is “let’s promise them the stars, while they are so gullible, we will steal ourselves rich and live like kings and queens.They aren’t worthy of any opinion, coming with communist ideology but only interested in self enrichment.SOUTH AFRICA hasn’t got leaders , we got thieves, that are destroying us!!!!

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Feeling powerless in politics?

Equip yourself with the tools you need for an informed decision this election. Get the Elections Toolbox with shareable party manifesto guide.