WATCH: State agrees to pay Life Esidimeni claimants R200,000 each



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JOHANNESBURG - The Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings continue in Parktown, Johannesburg on Thursday, with the various lawyers to make their closing arguments.

Several key witnesses have testified at the hearings, including Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Gauteng’s former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and Gauteng Premier David Makhura.

The state and Section 27 have agreed to compensate families for their loss.

Families of the victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy will be paid R200,000 in compensation for funeral expenses and emotional trauma and those who wish to receive counselling will be able to do so.

But no deal has been reached between the state and Legal Aid, which is representing the families of surviving patients.

Lawyers representing survivors said they had failed to reach a deal with the state, although they had also been offered counselling.

Legal Aid South Africa's Lilla Crouse said, "Justice, unfortunately we have been unable to reach any agreement in respect of general damages. No offer was made in respect of counselling as yet. We are continuously taking instructions and we will place on record if we reach an agreement at any stage.”

Adila Hassin for Section27 said that the explanation given by the Health department as to why they moved the Life Esidimeni patients carries no weight.

She said, “What we were able to establish by the end of the hearing is that none of these reasons hold water.

"The justification of the deinstitutionalisation was roundly discredited at these hearings. There was no aspects of the marathon project that was consistent with the national policy, let alone the laws of the land…

"Their families were not consulted…there was no proper discharge…they were moved far from their homes…all those factors fly in the face of the national policy strategic frame work on mental health care.”

Hassin said that there was sufficient evidence to prove the Gauteng Health Department had enough money to look after Life Esidimeni patients.

“We now know that there were no budgets constraints. The overall budget increased before and after the move of the patients…the department’s bank account had many millions being paid to consultants…we also know that financial management was rife with significant irregular expenditure…department had been advised not to cut costs on core services,” she said.

WATCH: Health minister weeps at Esidimeni hearing

At least 140 mentally ill patients died after they were transferred from Life Esidimeni facilities to several unlicensed NGOs.

Initially it was believed 144 patients died as a result of the transfer, but on Tuesday the Health Ombudsman, Malegapuru Makgoba, said only 140 patients would be included in the alternative dispute process.

Mahlangu testified that the department ended its Life Esidimeni contract because of financial constraints, but Gauteng MEC for Finance Barabara Creecy testified that more than R47-million was paid to NGOs to take care of the mentally ill patients.

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