The ANC’s integrity commission has summoned former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu to appear before the committee to account for her role in the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients.
Last week Wednesday, Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba, affirmed in a report that the patients died after the department negligently moved them from the licensed Life Esidimeni private homes to 27 unlicensed facilities.
Makgoba disclosed that investigations also found that the patients died of cold, hunger, a general lack of care and that the number of 94 fatalities is provisional as bodies remain unidentified in morgues and some families are still coming forward with names of dead people.
He lashed out at the MEC for announcing 37 deaths between March 23 and December 19, 2016, whereas the number of deaths was actually 77. The Health Ombudsman also disclosed that the outcome of the investigations was arrived at with the help of over 70 witnesses and eight psychiatric experts.
Mokogba, thereafter, urged Premier Makhura to discipline and possibly suspend the head of the health department and her director.
In the wake of the health ombud’s report, Mahlangu quickly tendered her resignation within hours. But that’s not the end of the story as families of the victims and different groups have called for stricter punishment for the debacle.
Among the complaints is that of the ANC Youth League in Gauteng. The league released a statement last week, calling for Gauteng Premier David Makhura to resign as well. It earlier opened a criminal case against Mahlangu.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, also condemned the MEC for the tragic loss of the patients. He expressed disappointment by showing off his anger; stressing that something like this should have been avoided.
While the Provincial Executive wants Mahlangu punished severely, it commended Gauteng Premier David Makhura for the “openness and urgency” with which he handled the ombudsman’s report and his commitment towards the implementation of the remedial action.
Meanwhile, Former Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa has been named as the new Health MEC. She has served as the chairperson of the health portfolio committee in the Gauteng provincial legislature in 1998 before serving as MEC for health between 1999 and 2006.
Her appointment is expected to restore peace and confidence in the provincial health sector.