JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi broke down in tears as he apologised to families of 144 psychiatric patients who died in the LIfe Esidimeni tragedy.
Testifying at the arbitration hearings into the tragedy on Wednesday evening, Motsoaledi covered his face with his hands as he wept
[WATCH] Health Minister, Dr Aaron #Motsoaledi gets emotional during his apology to the families who lost their loved ones in the #LifeEsidimeni tragedy. Courtesy #DStv403— eNCA (@eNCA) January 31, 2018
For more >> https://t.co/xn9zbzRXGp pic.twitter.com/QM7h9RZPX9
The tragedy was reminiscent of those in apartheid times, he said.
The health minister said there are people in the Gauteng Health Department who should face legal action.
"I believe under such conditions whoever did that must be charged and I believe [Gauteng Health] MEC [Gwen] Ramokgopa is going to do that ... Besides the people cited by the ombud, I personally believe there are lots of people who must be charged in one way or another. I'm not saying it to spite anybody [but] because I've never seen such dubious characters working for the government," Motsoaledi said.
The marathon project to transfer mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni centres to NGOs should've been heavily scrutinised before it started, he said.
"Had I known something like this was being planned I said it would have been discussed in the National Health Council where all the MECs are, the surgeon general of military health, Salga [SA Local Government Association], all the HODs [heads of departments] and deputy directors-general at the national department, all of them put together, will have known whether something like this can happen or not and I believe it would have been stopped", said Motsoaledi.
Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who is chairing the hearings, thanked Motsoaledi for appearing, saying he is different from other government officials.
“I just would like to thank you for coming here. On behalf of many South Africans and families, thank you for being active in the remedial end of this disaster. Government [officials] often are arrogant but you chose a different route, to show contrition, to show remorse and to engage the families to arrange this arbitration process,” said Moseneke.
Arbitration hearings chair former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke says the hearing will convene on 8 and 9 February to hear legal arguments and the deliberations by the arbitrator.