Torture and starvation are irrelevant‚ state advocate tells Esidimeni hearing

The state wants the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing to disregard the torture suffered by deceased psychiatric patients when awarding compensation to aggrieved families.

The state and Section 27‚ which represents 74 families‚ agreed on R200‚000 to compensate relatives for emotional shock and funeral costs. However‚ the families also want to be compensated for constitutional damages‚ which the state has disputed.

Advocate Tebogo Hutamo‚ in submitting closing arguments on behalf of the state during the hearings today‚ said evidence in relation to how patients were tortured and starved to death was irrelevant.

He said that when determining compensation‚ consideration should only be given to the emotional trauma experienced by families and not the human rights abuses suffered by the dead patients.

Hutamo said this was because the relatives were the ones seeking compensation and not the dead patients‚ an argument that prompted former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke‚ who is heading proceedings‚ to say: “But that trauma can only occur from the horrible deeds‚ isn’t it? Are you saying the suffering of the deceased is irrelevant? That is an incredible proposition. It startles me.”

Hutamo said: “The wrong should be in relation to the family members who have suffered trauma in relation to the implementation of the marathon project.”
He said they did not dispute the fact that patients had been violated‚ but this did not mean that their relatives were entitled to constitutional damages.

The arbitration was called following the release of a damning report by South Africa’s health ombudsman‚ Professor Malegapuru Makgoba‚ which exposed harrowing details of how the patients died.