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DA mulls legal options to force Mahlangu to pay share of R159m arbitration award for Esidimeni victims

Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.
Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

The Democratic Alliance is considering legal options to ensure that former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and senior health officials are forced to pay from their own money for the Life Esidimeni compensation costs.

DA Gauteng shadow health MEC Jack Bloom said on Sunday this followed the failure of the Gauteng provincial government to respond within 60 days to a letter he had written on July 16 to Premier David Makhura and Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa to demand that they pursue legal action against those implicated in the Esidimeni tragedy so that they personally pay a share of the R159-million arbitration award to relatives of those who suffered and died.

“My letter noted that there is some urgency in this matter as action in terms of the Apportionment of Damages Act needs to take place within one year. I submitted that a period of 60 days was adequate time to take legal advice as government may see fit to commence proceedings in this matter‚ but I have not received any written response‚” Bloom said in a statement.

He said the act provided that a party that had been found liable in a civil claim‚ and had paid this claim in full‚ could act to recover from those who were also allegedly liable – the “joint wrongdoers” - to recover a contribution for their fair share of what had been paid.

“In this instance‚ the ‘joint wrongdoers’ include former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu‚ former Gauteng Head of Department for Health Dr Barney Selebano and former Chief Director Mental Health Dr Makgabo Manamela.

“Premier Makhura said in an oral reply to my questions on September 4 that he was still consulting with stakeholders and legal advisers in this matter‚ but it seems to me that he is not giving it the priority that it deserves.

“Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for woeful government conduct which led to the Esidimeni tragedy‚” Bloom asserted.

He added: “If the government continues to stall in this matter‚ the legal remedy would be to take steps to review the failure to take the appropriate action and/or compel government to do so. “We will continue to push the provincial government in various ways to ensure that Mahlangu and the implicated officials pay a fair share of the money that has been paid to the Esidimeni victims.”

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

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