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News

Don’t hound us: Life Esidimeni families warn lawyers

The families of Life Esidimeni victims have asked to stop being hounded by lawyers.

Families representative Christine Nxumalo said the families of patients moved from Life Esidimeni homes to ill-prepared-NGOs were working with lawyers from public interest law centre‚ Section 27‚ with whom they had established trust.
Nxumalo said Section 27 “stood with us from the very beginning”.

In December 2015‚ within months of the announcement of the removal of the patients from their Life Esidimeni homes‚ Section 27 went to court to stop the move and reached a settlement with the Gauteng health department on how the move should proceed. The department had not honoured the settlement agreement and more than 100 psychiatric and intellectually impaired patients died.
Today parliament will debate the Life Esidimeni disaster and deaths. The families have MPs not to attempt “to use the day for political point-scoring”.

Nxumalo said on behalf of the families‚ both those whose loved ones are still alive and those who died: “We wish to make it very clear that‚ in the process‚ the lives of our loved ones should not be used as a political football by any of the parties represented in parliament. We have suffered enough‚ without having to watch self-serving politicians trying to make a name for themselves through our pain.”
She said urgent attention needed to be paid to the recommendations made by Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgboba.

The families said patients could not wait for the National Assembly to finish its work and parliament should not in any way delay the implementation of the report. Makgboba recommended discplinary action against officials involved in the move and that all living patients be moved from NGOs into proper care. The Gauteng health department said on Wednesday it was looking for places for 798 patients it would soon move from 22 NGOs. Nxumalo said: “The reality is that many families have not yet found their loved ones‚ and many of our loved ones remain in danger. Many bereaved family members still do not know how‚ when or where their loved ones died. We therefore call on MPs not to claim to do things in our interest without consulting us.”
The families said if a commission of inquiry into the moving of almost 1 400 patients‚ “it must not be done in a way that delays implementation of the ombudsman’s recommendations”.