Families of deceased Esidimeni mentally ill patients cry for justice


At least 39 patients died after their transfer from Life Esidimeni Centre in Randfontein last year. But civil society groups and families of the affected have claimed the death toll could be as high as 60. ?

JOHANNESBURG - Families of psychiatric patients who died after being transferred to NGOs in Gauteng, say they are shocked that the organisations are still running.

It emerged on Wednesday that 94 people died after being transferred from the Esidimeni Life centre to the NGOs.

FULL REPORT: 94 mentally ill patients died

Many family members are shocked at the cruelty their loved ones experienced. Others are outraged that these centres where their family members died have not been shut down.

Many hold former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu directly responsible for the deaths. She resigned on Wednesday.






Following the release of the Health Ombudsman's report on the deaths, these families can now start finding closure.

Meanwhile, Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba says only 1 out of the 94 died from mental health. The majority died from dehydration, starvation, pneumonia and uncontrolled fits.

Most of those deaths could have been avoided.

The Ombud’s report reveals how many patients were transferred to unlicensed NGOs without proper identification records or medical files. The report says most deaths occurred, where NGOs did not know the patients diagnosis or their prescribed medication. Most deaths occurred in NGO’s where staff had no medical experience.

Families of the patients who died after being moved from Life Esidimeni centre in Gauteng, are outraged at officials.

Family member of a deceased Lucas Moegerane says, "“Well, we got a phone call to say that he’ll be moved the following day and that was it."






One NGO implicated in the Life Esidimeni report has acknowledged it didn't have the adequate skills to care for the mentally-ill patients. Fourteen of them died at the Takalani Home for the Mentally Handicapped in Soweto alone. It's blamed government for not providing the necessary support to care for the patients.?






NGO, Section 27, says the former Gauteng health MEC ignored repeated expert advice against moving mentally-ill patients from the Life Esidimeni centre.

Mark Heywood from the organisation says the former MEC was warned over many months about the fact that lives could be lost.

"I personally spoke to her head of health. You were offered assistance by psychiatrists and NGOs to try and make sure that if you did move, you move people to safe and proper facilities. You spurned that assistance. These deaths are very much at her responsibility”.