'Esidimeni culprits must be jailed'

Families of psychiatric patients, who died after they were moved to illegal NGOs,sing outside the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown.
Families of psychiatric patients, who died after they were moved to illegal NGOs,sing outside the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown.
Image: Thulani Mbele

The families of victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy will know how much compensation is due to them within 30 days.

On Friday, the arbitration hearing into the deaths of more than 140 psychiatric patients in Gauteng was concluded when the state presented its closing arguments.

Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke will have to deliberate on the evidence by relatives, experts and government officials.

Moseneke described it as the end of a trying task, adding he would have to carefully deliberate on the facts before him.

"It's a lonely time again because you retreat back to your tower and hope to produce a just and equitable outcome."

Moseneke said he would have to work hard to ensure the award was announced during the stipulated period of 30 days from last Friday.

Lawyers representing the families of the deceased patients have agreed to a proposed amount, for common law damages, of R200000 for emotional shock and funeral costs

However, the families have asked for an additional R1.5-million to compensate them for constitutional damages on the basis that their rights were violated.

The Legal Aid SA, which represents 168 survivors and their families, has asked for R1-million for their clients.

The state disputes this, arguing the R200000 that covers common law damages is sufficient to compensate the families for their trauma.

Section27 lawyer Adila Hassim ended her address on an emotionally charged note while reading through a list of victims. "Billy Maboe's father is Reverend [Joseph] Maboe. He described Billy, who died in 2016, as always jolly when he was at Life Esidimeni. When the reverend went to visit Billy at Bophelong, Billy was so hungry that he licked the chips packet clean," she said.

The audience shed tears.

Maboe said he was satisfied with the arbitration and awaited the outcome.

"We feel good that this has come to an end. It has been like a dark cloud hanging over our heads."

Nomvula Nonjabe, whose younger sister survived the ordeal, said they would not find closure until those responsible for the deaths faced the law.

"But, to be honest, I will only get closure when the culprits are jailed."

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