Opinionista Omry Makgoale 29 January 2018

Life Esidimeni: Horror Story under the ANC’s Watch

Who is responsible for the deaths of 143 Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients? Who should be held accountable? The answer lies at the door of Luthuli House, where the ANC Deployment Committee resides – this is where the responsibility lies.

Qedani Mahlangu (Gauteng MEC for Health), Dr Barney Selebano (Head of the Department of Health) and Dr Makgabo Manamela (Head of Mental Health) were all deployed by ANC officials, supposedly according to the ANC’s Through the Eye of the Needle policy document. But how could the deployment committee get it so wrong? None of these officials has shown any sense of responsibility or individual accountability for their actions. How bad can the choices made by the deployment committee be? Or was the deployment committee replaced by an emissary of the Guptas?

When Life Esidimeni was to be closed, the psychiatric patients were moved to places or homes that had not been checked and certified by a competent body, the health inspectors. No one bothered to make sure whether or not they were taken to a place that is safe for mental patients.

Who was responsible for this operation? Is it Dr Makgabo Manamela, or is it Dr Barney Selebano or the Gauteng Health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu? How do trained professionals such as Dr Manamela and Dr Selebano deviate from their professional ethical conduct and follow orders that are bizarre and insane? Where is their sense of what is right and wrong?

None of these departments of health officials saw anything wrong in bundling psychiatric patients into trucks and vans and ferrying them to various death traps called homes. The patients were tied in ropes in the trucks and vans! What a traumatic experience for the Life Esidimeni patients. It is shameful to those of us who are ANC members that this was done under our administration. We failed these patients and their families.

This is the work of the ANC deployment committee, which has been staffed by people with a low sense of responsibility and high levels of greed. Instead of deploying ANC cadres in line with Through the Eye of the Needle they have been doing the exact opposite.

Further: why should the head of the Department of Health and the head of Mental Health be political appointees in the first place? That is what “deployee” means. Why should positions in such a sensitive area in public administration not be staffed according to strictly meritocratic, professional criteria? Does South Africa want to have the best qualified administrators or just political cronies? No wonder the country is in a mess.

It is disappointing to see Qedani Mahlangu, as MEC for Health, claiming to have been misinformed by Dr Selebano and Dr Manamela. Did she not verify the reports she was getting? Sorry, MEC Mahlangu: your ignorance is not an acceptable excuse. You should have known better when you took the oath of office.

It does not get any better for South Africa (or for the ANC) when you have Social Welfare Minister Bathabile Dlamini at the Sassa inquiry performing in a disgraceful way. She also claims her officials misled her. Why she did not verify the reports, only heaven knows. Sassa is supposed to mean South African Social Security Agency, but how much social security or any other security is there under such an irresponsible minister?

It was claimed Ms Dlamini ignored legal advice that she immediately inform the Constitutional Court on Sassa’s imminent failure to meet the deadline to take over grant payments from Cash Paymaster Services. She said it was a “puzzling coincidence”. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The current leadership of the ANC Women’s League is a disgrace to women, and a disgrace to the memory of Charlotte Maxeke, Lilian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph.

The ANC is covered in shame. DM

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