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ANC accuses ANCYL of 'grandstanding' over Esidimeni scandal

Politics
Johannesburg – A public spat between the African National Congress (ANC) and its Gauteng youth league structure emerged on Friday, when the mother body accused the league of "grandstanding" after it criticised former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and subsequently laid criminal charges against her over the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients at ill-equipped NGOs under her watch.

The ANC said death was a harrowing and painful experience and that no one "should ever grand stand on anyone’s pain". "It is for this reason that the ANC finds the statements of the ANCYL in Gauteng atrocious, despicable and unbefitting not only to members of the ANC but humanity at large," the governing party said in a statement.

"During this difficult period, all structures of our movement should be focusing their energies on supporting the bereaved families... this is is not the time for squabbling around leadership positions and unfortunate public displays of disunity."

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The ANCYL criticised former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and subsequently laid criminal charges against her over the deaths of 94 mentally ill patients at ill-equipped NGOs under her watch. Picture: Simone Kley

Following the release of the damning report into psychiatric patients' deaths – who died after they were transferred from provincial government contractor Life Esidimeni Centre to 27 NGO's around the province – opposition parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) led the charge against Mahlangu and Gauteng Premier David Makhura.

The EFF laid criminal charges against the provincial leaders on Thursday. The ANCYL in the province, led by its chairman Matome Chiloane followed suit and went to the Johannesburg central police station on Thursday, and laid murder charges against Mahlangu, who had resigned on Wednesday, a day before Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba released the report. The youth league further demanded that Makhura resign as premier.

The ANC said society expected all its structures to lead and help affected families heal and find closure.

"Where there are genuine issues to be engaged with the leadership of the ANC in Gauteng, the ANC calls for the ANCYL to raise these within acceptable organisational and societal norms. The ANC calls on the ANCYL nationally and the ANC in Gauteng to strongly reprimand the Gauteng ANCYL for their inhumane behaviour."

Makgoba revealed on Wednesday that in contrast to a figure of 36 fatalities given by Mahlangu in the provincial legislature last year, at least 94 psychiatric patients out of 1300 had died between March and December 2016, after they were moved from the department’s contractor, Life Esidimeni, to several non-government organisations in the province.

According to the report, the patients were transferred to NGOs that lacked basic competence and experience. They also did not have the leadership capacity to care for mentally ill patients and were operating under invalid licenses.

The number could have risen as the rest of the patients remained at the NGOs. Makgoba’s investigation found that the death of only one patient was a consequence of mental illness, while the causes of death of the other 93 included malnutrition, dehydration, heart attacks and diarrhoea.

Mahlangu will be replaced by incumbent Deputy Minister of Health, Gwen Ramokgopa. She is a medical doctor and a former mayor of the City of Tshwane. She previously served as Gauteng Health MEC from 1999 to 2006.

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