The R159-million Esidimeni bill has been paid

Dikgang Moseneke
Image: Freddy Mavunda/Financial Mail

The Gauteng Executive Council on Wednesday said it had settled the multi-million rand financial claim linked to the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke earlier this year called on government to compensate the families of the victims who died in the tragedy – and that compensation has now been paid.

"The Office of the Premier paid a total sum of R159.46-million to all the 134 claimants who were part of the alternative dispute resolution process. All payments were concluded by 13 June 2018‚ ahead of the deadline of 19 June 2018 set by Justice Moseneke‚" the office of Gauteng Premier David Makhura said.

Moseneke's probe into the Esidimeni tragedy had concluded that the rights of mentally ill patients and their families were flagrantly violated and disregarded during the debacle.

He slammed the former Gauteng Health MEC‚ saying her plea of ignorance was untrue.

“All the facts here point to cruelty‚” he said on the final day of arbitration hearings into the tragedy‚ in which he said victims and their families had to be compensated.

He had ruled that families of the mental patients treated cruelly by government should each receive payments of R20‚000 for their funeral expenses‚ R180‚000 for shock and psychological trauma and R1-million in constitutional damages.

Moseneke said that although arbitration was unusual‚ it was intended to give closure to families and a chance to mourn and grieve.

Mentally ill and vulnerable patients were stripped of their dignity‚ subjected to “torture” at ill-equipped NGOs and abandoned by arrogant provincial health authorities who abused their power and lied about the scale of the catastrophe‚ he said.

The hearings were held after at least 144 psychiatric patients died after 1‚711 of them were moved from Life Esidimeni homes into ill-equipped and underfunded NGOs in 2016 in Gauteng.

Moseneke said more than 1‚400 of the patients had survived “torturous conditions”. Some of them had been transported on the back of trucks like cattle‚ others did not get medication and some appeared to have starved to death.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi had apologised for the ordeal‚ saying it “one of the most painful and horrible events in the history of post-apartheid South Africa”.

"As minister of health‚ I wish to apologise unconditionally to the families and to all those who are still living. We have wronged them in a way unimaginable‚" he said at the time.

There were conflicting accounts during the hearings as to why patients were moved in the first place.

Some officials testified that severe financial pressure on the department of health led to the mass relocation as a cost-saving measure.

Former Gauteng MEC for health Qedani Mahlangu said under oath: "You rob Peter to pay Paul at any one time."

Gauteng Finance MEC Barbara Creecy‚ however‚ disagreed and said cost cutting was never supposed to lead to the department stopping essential‚ core services.

The Democratic Alliance had last month said that around 28 patients had still not been located.

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