Johannesburg – DA leader Mmusi Maimane took the fight over the Life Esidimeni tragedy to Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s doorstep when he led a protest march calling on the ANC provincial deputy chairperson to resign.
During his State of the Province Address (Sopa) last Monday, Makhura said his office had not played any role in the deaths of more than 100 mentally ill patients who died after being transferred from Life Esidimeni to various NGOs across the province.
On Tuesday, the DA supporters protested outside Makhura’s offices at 30 Simmonds Street in Joburg, calling for his resignation.
DA councillor Jack Bloom received loud applause when he said: “The province needs a new leadership that cares for the people. Makhura you have failed us. You must go.”
Maimane laid the blame for the deaths squarely at the ANC door, saying the ruling party should “vote out” Makhura, when the DA’s no confidence motion against him is tabled at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature on Tuesday. If they did not, all the ANC councillors would have blood on their hands.
He called for a judicial commission of inquiry over the deaths, and for the victims’ families to be compensated.
Maimane said: “In the past, the ANC could lump the blame on one person and then sacrifice this fall guy to the public and the media while the rest of them got off scot free.
"We saw them do this with Marikana. We saw them do this with Nkandla. We saw them do this with the Guptas’ Waterkloof landing. As soon as the scandal breaks, one person ends up under the bus and the rest walk away. But we cannot allow this any longer. The families of the Esidimeni victims deserve better. The people of South Africa deserve better.
"The resignation of (former Health) MEC Qedani Mahlangu will not make the Esidimeni tragedy go away. All those responsible for these deaths must follow her example. And this begins with Premier David Makhura," Maimane said.
"Saying ‘I didn’t know’ is simply not good enough. If you didn’t know, Premier, then you weren’t doing your job.”
In his Sopa, Makhura said: “I will spend the remainder of my term over the next two years, to ensure that there is restorative justice and healing for the families and take every executive action possible to restore confidence in our public health system.”