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Elusive closure

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Yengeni has been elected to several positions in the ANC despite his criminal conviction related to the Arms Deal.

Tony Yengeni

IT IS distressing that the provincial ANC leadership in Gauteng has allowed disgraced former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu not only to stand for re-election but to be elected to its Provincial Executive Committee (PEC). If anything, Mahlangu should have been urged to leave the political scene until she has properly atoned for her role in the biggest human tragedy to have befallen post-apartheid South Africa.

More than 140 vulnerable psychiatric patients died from starvation, dehydration and general neglect when the Gauteng Health Department ended its contract with Life Esidimeni and moved more than 1 400 patients to unregistered NGOs to save money. The patients were discharged from Life Esidimeni in large numbers from March to June 2016.

The department had ample warnings against the step. The South African Society of Psychiatrists wrote to Mahlangu about the risks.

The SA Depression and Anxiety Group, the SA Federation for Mental Health, and families of Life Esidimeni residents pleaded with the department to follow the correct procedure to ensure proper care for the patients.

Their pleas fell on deaf ears, resulting in the biggest human rights violation since the dawn of our democracy.

Mahlangu resigned as Health MEC last year following the release of the report of an inquiry into the tragedy.

It beggars belief that, despite her major role in the tragedy, she was eligible for re-election to the PEC.

The view that the ANC will always protect its own in spite of other moral imperatives will find credence when the case of Tony Yengeni is brought into the mix. Yengeni has been elected to several positions in the ANC despite his criminal conviction related to the Arms Deal.

The NPA is yet to finalise the Life Esidimeni cases – 45 inquest dockets are apparently awaiting a decision on whether to prosecute. Esidimeni involves a wide range of possible crimes – including culpable homicide, corruption, contraventions of the Mental Health Act, fraud and illegal licences to NGOs.

The families of the Life Esidimeni victims have decried Mahlangu’s re-election, saying the memories of those who died have been dishonoured and trivialised.

The ANC will have a tough time erasing this impression.

It has made closure for the families more distant.