Maverick Citizen


Portraits of Lives Lost: ‘He was also a human being’

Portraits of Lives Lost: ‘He was also a human being’
Nono Moditse and her brother, Kevin Ratsotso, and their late brother Charity. (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. 

Kevin Ratsoto dreamt that he was with his brother, Charity Ratsoto. They were drinking their favorite drink and God spoke to him. The dream brought Kevin some peace because he believes his brother is now safe. But he still wants those responsible for his death to be held accountable.

Charity was Kevin and Nono’s older brother. He was the oldest of four and from a young age had suffered severe mental illness. He had been at the Waverley Care Centre for 10 years and was moved to the Cullinan Rehab Centre in April 2015. “The last time we saw him was on 16 June 2016,” says Nono. “He was fine and you could see that he is eating healthy and taking his medication.”

In September that year she called to check up on her brother. She had heard rumours that people were being moved. She spoke to the centre’s social worker, Daphne Ndhlovu, who told Nono that she had just been with Charity and he was fine.

But it wasn’t true. They were to find out later Charity had been dead for two months already. He died on 11 July. They discovered he had been moved to Anchor NGO and transferred to Mamelodi Hospital, which is where he passed away.

“We were told his body was kept at Mamelodi mortuary,” Kevin says.
Nono, her mother, uncle and Kevin had to go and identify his body. “His body was decomposed and he had no eyes. There was a hole on his chest and marks on his wrists as if he had been tied up,” she says.

Nono wants answers. “They must come and explain to us what happened to my brother because he was also a human being.” DM/MC

The 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


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