Esidimeni NGO drew grants from dead patients
Dorothy Franks‚ who ran the Anchor NGO‚ where at least five Life Esidimeni patients died‚ has admitted she drew Sassa grant money from the accounts of deceased patients.
When she was asked by Judge Dikgang Moseneke overseeing the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings if she drew grants from the dead‚ she became silent for a while and eventually said: “Yes‚ judge.”
Later‚ she whispered: “I couldn’t help it.”
She had earlier told the arbitration hearing that after her NGO in Cullinan had been shut and she had been chased off the premises‚ for five months she drew grants of about R1‚500 each from 29 patients who were no longer in her care.
She also earned R600‚000 from the Gauteng department of health after the NGO was shut in October last year.
During cross-examination‚ she was pressured to explain why she took about 72 patients into her care when she didn’t have experience with mentally ill patients‚ only had a licence to look after children with intellectual disabilities and had to mix men and women in the same crowded ward.
Franks said she took in patients under pressure from then Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and former director of health in the province Dr Makgoba Manamela.
Section 27 advocate Nikki Stein suggested she took patients for the money. “You didn’t resist pressure from Dr Manamela and Mahlangu because you wanted the money?”
Franks responded‚ “Yes“.
She was promised R3‚490 per patient per month by Manamela‚ but was not paid initially‚ and had to use her own money to buy food for patients.
Other NGO owners have not given clear answers why they took patients in‚ even though they didn’t have staff‚ experience or knowledge about mental health care or even bed linen.
But Franks is the first to concede under oath that she did it for the money.
Precious Angels Owner Ethel Ncube who had no experience with mentally ill adults and had 23 people die under her care said she took patients into her houses to “make a difference” and build a “legacy“.
Siyabadinga owner Dianne Noyile‚ who also had no skills with the mentally ill‚ had no money‚ no linen or food and had an illegal licence‚ said she took patients in due to her “love“.
Christine Nxumalo‚ who lost her sister Virginia Machpelah at Precious Angels‚ previously testified on the stand that she felt NGO owners were not honest and families were not getting answers. She suggested NGO witnesses were not “petrified of going to jail” and even suggested amnesty may be needed to get the truth.
Franks has‚ however‚ appeared as an honest witness‚ admitting there were no doctors at the Anchor NGO premises to help sick patients and that 30 patients didn’t have IDs so she struggled to get them hospital care.
She also admitted that there were only six toilets in the NGO with no seats for about 72 patients.
Three of the five patients who died in Franks’ care died of pneumonia. A photo of one of the deceased patients shows that he was extremely thin just before he died.
Throughout the three weeks of Esidimeni hearings‚ Moseneke has tried to understand why NGOs took severely mentally ill patients into their care when they didn’t have food‚ money‚ qualified healthcare staff‚ enough furniture or big enough facilities.