Johannesburg, 19 March 2018
SECTION27 welcomes the Award handed down by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. In a ringing indictment of the Life Esidimeni Marathon Project, DCJ Moseneke stated that the “terrible tale of death and torture” constituted a very serious breach of the Constitution and occurred as a result of an abuse of power by servants of the State. He found that the right to human dignity, the founding values of the Constitution and the principles governing public administration, the right to family life and the right to access to quality health care services were grossly violated. He also stated that there was “irregular expenditure, mismanagement, incompetence and possible fraud in the Gauteng Department of Health.”
In his order, DCJ Moseneke accepted the agreement between parties of R200,000 for common law damages, namely funeral expenses (R20,000) and for shock and psychological damages (180,000). The parties had also agreed to have a place of remembrance for the victims of the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project, and counselling for bereaved family members. Crucially, DCJ Moseneke also awarded R1 million for all claimants for Constitutional damages.
The Award is the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year long process of engagement and contestation with the State in an attempt to guarantee the fundamental human rights of Mental Health Care Users. The arbitration process, which was set up in order to provide information, redress and closure to the affected mental health care users and their families has lent dignity to the mental health care users and their families.
This is a major step towards a new culture of accountability in the civil service, as highlighted by the rigorous cross examination of 12 senior civil servants. Since the arbitration, Dr. Selebano and Dr. Manamela, the other two senior officials highlighted in the Health Ombud’s report as having their fingerprints peppered through the Life Esidimeni Marathon Project have joined former MEC Qedani Mahlangu in tendering their resignations.
We note with horror, the repeated reports coming out of the Eastern Cape about their ‘ticking psychiatric timebomb’, with conditions being described as “degrading and inhumane”. We reiterate our call for a review of the quality of mental health care service provision, in all its forms, not only in Gauteng but the entire country and pledge our support where appropriate to ensure an improved health system.
We thank other parties involved in this crucial process. This process would not have been as successful without the involvement of all, with a particular mention to the State, as this was a consensual process and is done in terms of agreement between the parties, which involve the government and the families. We also commend other parties, namely the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) and the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP), who have stood by the families, speaking truth to power since before the move in 2015.
SECTION27 also wishes to express their gratitude to Legal Aid South Africa for funding our representation of the deceased and their families at the Alternative Dispute Resolution. Legal Aid SA’s Chief Legal Executive, Patrick Hundermark, affirms the importance of funding such matters, noting that “funding precedent-setting matters that promote the rights of communities is a key part of the delivery of Legal Aid South Africa’s mandate to ensure access to justice for all. Such impact litigation matters affect many people; in this instance, a large number of vulnerable mental health care users who desperately needed justice to be upheld”.
Likewise, we commend DCJ Moseneke for donating his entire arbitrator’s fees to law schools to fight injustice.
SECTION27 represented 63 families of deceased MCHUs, while Legal Aid South Africa represented 58 families of surviving MCHUs. 4 families of deceased MHCUs were represented by Hurter Spies.
We will issue a more comprehensive analysis of the Award shortly.
For media inquiries: please contact:
Ngqabutho Mpofu (SECTION27): 061 807 6443 or via email: Mpofu@section27.org.za