Home South African Health dept deputy director to testify as Life Esidimeni inquest resumes

Health dept deputy director to testify as Life Esidimeni inquest resumes

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The inquest into the Life Esidimeni tragedy resumes on Monday in a virtual sitting at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria before Judge Mmonoa Teffo.

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THE INQUEST into the Life Esidimeni tragedy resumes on Monday in a virtual sitting at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria before Judge Mmonoa Teffo.

Public interest law centre SECTION27 is representing 44 of the bereaved families in the process to determine criminal liability for the deaths of 144 vulnerable mental health-care users (MHCUs) following the decision of the Gauteng Department of Health (GDOH) to move them from Life Esidimeni health facilities into unlicensed and unprepared NGOs in 2016.

The inquest is now set to hear from its sixth witness, Hanna Jacobus, who was the deputy director within the Mental Health Directorate at the GDOH responsible for overseeing NGOs to which patients would be moved.

“Following several procedural delays and adjournments to the inquest in 2021, SECTION27 hopes that progress with the Inquest will be uninterrupted this year,” the organisation said.

“The inquest serves as an important judicial inquiry into the legal causes of death for each of the 144 mental health-care users, and whether these tragic deaths were brought about by any criminal offence or negligence on the part of GDOH officials or NGO owners who received patients. SECTION27 hopes that evidence from the inquest will then be taken forward by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to inform future criminal proceedings against those involved in this tragedy.”

SECTION27 said that while many of the officials from the GDOH and NGOs have now claimed that they could not have predicted or prevented the deaths of the Life Esidimeni tragedy, they will again this year seek to show the court how the risks of the poorly planned transfer of MHCUs were repeatedly flagged but ultimately ignored.

Proceedings are expected to resume for the duration of this week.

The hearings will be streamed live from 10am on Monday on the South African Judiciary’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8JUUuW6SM0

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