JOHANNESBURG - The father of one of 141 patients who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy has testified at the arbitration hearings that his son was moved without his consent.
Reverend Joseph Maboe says he was never informed when his son was moved, and that he had vocally opposed the transfer at meetings before the move.
When Maboe went to visit his son Hendrick at the Life Esidimeni Centre in Randfontein in late June 2016, the gates were locked and the building was being renovated. No one there knew of his son’s whereabouts.
In the days that followed, he asked God to show him where his child had been sent, he told the hearings in Johannesburg on Thursday.
On 13 July -- the day of his birthday -- his prayers were answered.
“When I picked up my phone, I said, 'Thank you, my son, this is the best birthday I have ever had."
When he visited his son at Bophelong, the NGO he was transferred to, he was shocked.
“When I saw Billy I got the shock of my life. He looked frail, he looked disoriented, he looked filthy and he was stinking. He looked frail and hungry.
"He said, 'I am thirsty, I want water' and the nurse said, 'We are not giving water [because] he is peeing in his pants'. He was so hungry he took the packet [and] ate like this, he wanted to eat even the plastic ...
"There were 40 beds lined up in a garage, there was no privacy, nothing,” Maboe said.
Officials had told them they were relying on handouts and that a bakkie was being used to transport patients to their check-ups.
When he had wanted to take his son home, he had been told he needed to secure approval, he said.
“I said to my niece: 'I don’t see Billy living more days then what we are seeing here.'”
Days later, Maboe received a call saying his son was in hospital.
He drove to Jubilee Hospital in Hamanskraal, north of Pretoria, and prepared for the worst.
“I had brought holy water to anoint him and when I was told he was no more, I had no words.”
Moboe believes that if his son had not been moved from Life Esidimeni he would still be alive.
“At this time and point when our hearts are broken, what can we say to the government? When Parliament opened and the DA asked for a moment of silence [for Esidimeni patients who had died] they refused flatly. Now what can we say to them?”
More families are expected to testify as the inquiry continues.