Compensation for Esidimeni families a hot potato
Determining the costs incurred by families of the victims of the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project is proving to be a slippery aspect of the Life Esidimeni arbitration dispute resolution (ADR) process.
Designed to provide information, redress and closure to the affected mental healthcare users and their families, the hearings, chaired by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, started on October 9 and are expected to continue until October 27.
The parties chose arbitration as the method of resolving the dispute, seeking equitable redress. One term of reference is to provide financial compensation to the families affected but the amount to be paid out per patient remains undetermined.
Each testifying family member has been asked about the emotional and financial damage incurred as part of revealing the extent of the tragedy in which 141 mental health patients died.
On Friday, witnesses testified about the horrific conditions that their family members had been subjected to. Many have been unable to recall how much was spent as a result of the tragedy.
Anna Masombuka, whose daughter Maswidi had been living at a Life Esidimeni Randfontein facility for more than 20 years, told the tribunal that she was unable to give a figure of how much was spent because she was illiterate.
Another witness said the emotional trauma she experienced did not allow her to stay abreast of the financial costs related to her husband’s funeral.
South Africans have to work hard to find out what equitable redress would mean
Phumzile Motshegwa was able to cite R72,000 for funeral costs after her brother Solly Mashego died in the care of illegal NGO Precious Angels.
The state, represented by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Gauteng Premier David Makhura, has conceded unconditionally that the conduct of its employees and functionaries had unlawfully and negligently caused the 141 deaths, but it is unclear where the funds for compensation will come from. The Gauteng department of health remains cash-strapped, with a R10bn funding gap.
"South Africans have to work hard to find out what equitable redress would mean," Moseneke said.
While officials remain mum on progress with summonsing former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, the DA’s Jack Bloom said sources had said she could now be subpoenaed to appear as her overseas address was now known. On Sunday, Bloom said a report had confirmed she was studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science, having flown from SA to Heathrow airport in London on July 29.
"It is essential that she accounts for her actions as she insisted on cancelling the Esidimeni contract despite warnings that this would result in disaster," said Bloom. "She also intimidated officials in the transfer of patients to illegally registered NGOs … and tried to cover up what was happening."