Now that the dust has settled after the Life Esidimeni arbitration, will it recede into the past as a tragic moment in history whose dead will be memorialised, but not much more will live on? If so, then not only would the dead not have been properly honoured by making things right, but SA can also be sure that a wrong of similar magnitude will recur. This is because, despite protestations, the Life Esidimeni story is not exceptional. It is an inevitable consequence of a system of public governance that is broken, a public service that does not serve. We may not know the real motive behind the manner in which patients and families were treated, but we can say why it was permitted. There were several governance fault lines that contributed to the culture of government that made the catastrophic outcome possible. The first is the disregard for section 195 of the Constitution, which details the basic principles of public administration. This section sits far from the provisions of the ...

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