JOHANNESBURG - Family members related more heart-breaking stories at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings on Tuesday, calling for the former Gauteng MEC for health to be called to answer for their pain.
“This is the photo that has made me feel like crying," said Christian Ngqondwana, whose son Vuyo was one of the 114 psychiatric who died after being transferred from the Life Esidimeni hospital.
"If you look at my son, this is not his colour, he has lost weight. I never believed, I even screamed,” Ngqondwana said.
He said he had taken his son for the usual Christmas holiday in December, not knowing that it would be the last.
In February 2017 he received a call that his son had died in his sleep. A postmortem later revealed he had died of aspiration pneumonia.
“You killed him … because he was active yesterday and today he is dead.”
He told the hearing of his shock on hearing the news: “I was cold, I shivered, I cried like a baby.”
In the weeks that followed, the unemployed Ngqondwana had emptied his bank account making burial arrangements for his son.
He demanded that Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, who led the transfer of the patients to unlicensed facilities, appear at the hearings.
"My heart will never be at peace. My heart will never be at peace with Qedani Mahlangu until she tells us why she had to do this thing. To the citizens of this country. I am a citizen of this country. Qedani must come and explain to me why she had to take my son away to be killed. I need an explanation."
“My heart will never be at peace with Qedani Mahlangu until she comes here and tells us why she had to do this to the citizens of this country.”
Qedani resigned after the ombudsman released his report into the tragedy.
Ngqondwana said his wife looked at pictures of their son every night before bedtime and had still not come to terms with the death.
Christine Nxumalo told the hearing that she had struggled to find her sister's body.
"It took me weeks going back and forth. I ended up having to go to a police station and I had to open a case. I had to ask them to assist me in getting my sister’s body.
Nxumalo: moving patients was a business transaction, it was never about the patients #LifeEsidimeni— African Child (@ZikhonaTshona) October 23, 2017
She said the founder of the NGO at whose facility her sister had died had been uncooperative.
“ I struggled to get any answers ... the manner in which she acted worries me because if, according to her, [my sister] died of natural causes, why was she hiding? She wouldn’t meet, she wouldn’t discuss anything. She didn’t offer any answers to us.”
Nxumalo never received the results of a postmortem.
Nxumalo: I never met Ethel (founder of Precious Angels) was when she came to testify #LifeEsidimeni— African Child (@ZikhonaTshona) October 23, 2017
Nxumalo: no one from department could contacted the family since my sister died. #LifeEsidimeni— African Child (@ZikhonaTshona) October 23, 2017
Nxumalo: Dr Manamela and Qedani Mahlangu must come here and take account #LifeEsidimeni— African Child (@ZikhonaTshona) October 23, 2017