JOHANNESBURG – A public spat broke out on Friday when the ANC accused its Gauteng youth league of "grandstanding" by laying criminal charges against former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu over the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients under her watch.
The ANC said death was a harrowing and painful experience and that no one “should ever grand stand on anyone’s pain”.
“It is for this reason that the ANC finds the statements of the ANCYL in Gauteng atrocious, despicable and unbefitting not only to members of the ANC but humanity at large,” the governing party said in a statement.
“During this difficult period, all structures of our movement should be focusing their energies on supporting the bereaved families… this is is not the time for squabbling around leadership positions and unfortunate public displays of disunity.”
Following the release of the damning report into psychiatric patients’ who died after they were transferred from the provincial government contractor Life Esidimeni Centre to NGOs around the province opposition parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) led the charge against Mahlangu and Gauteng premier David Makhura. The EFF laid criminal charges against the provincial leaders on Thursday.
The ANCYL in the province, led by its chairman Matome Chiloane, followed suit, laying murder charges at the Johannesburg central police station against Mahlangu, The MEC resigned on Wednesday, a day before Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba released the report into the deaths.
The youth league further demanded that Makhura resign as premier.
The ANC said society expected all its structures to lead and help affected families heal and find closure.
“Where there are genuine issues to engage the leadership of the ANC in Gauteng with, the ANC calls for the ANCYL to raise these within acceptable organisational and societal norms. The ANC calls on the ANCYL nationally and the ANC in Gauteng to strongly reprimand the Gauteng ANCYL for their inhumane behaviour.”
Makgoba revealed on Wednesday that in contrast to a figure of 36 fatalities given by Mahlangu in the provincial legislature last year, at least 94 psychiatric patients -- out of 1,300 -- had died between March and December 2016, after they were moved from Life Esidimeni.
According to the report, the patients were transferred to NGOs that lacked basic competence and experience. They also did not have the leadership capacity to care for mentally ill patients and were operating under invalid licences. The number could rise as the rest of the patients remained at the NGOs.
Makgoba’s investigation found that the death of one patient only was a consequence of mental illness, while the causes of death of the other 93 included malnutrition, dehydration, heart attacks and diarrhoea.
Mahlangu will be replaced by incumbent Deputy Minister of Health Gwen Ramokgopa. She is a medical doctor and a former mayor of the City of Tshwane. She previously served as Gauteng health MEC from 1999 to 2006.
African News Agency