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Parties eye criminal charges against ex-MEC, premier

Politics
Johannesburg – Some political parties are gunning for former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and Gauteng Premier David Makhura, and are intent on seeing them brought to justice and paying for their actions.

The ANC Youth League in Gauteng and EFF members in the legislature were expected separately to lay criminal charges against Mahlangu and Makhura on Thursday.

Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has stepped down after the release of a damning report into the deaths of 94 psychiatric patients. File picture: Dumisani Sibeko

While many have described the Gauteng Department of Health’s handling of the transfer of mentally ill patients to NGO facilities as "appalling", they also deem Mahlangu’s resignation as simply not good enough.

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Professor Malegapuru Makgoba at a media conference on the deaths of mentally ill patients. Picture: Jacques Naudé

The ANCYL delegation was due to be led by provincial chairperson Matome Chiloane, while EFF MPLs were set to head to Joburg Central police station in the afternoon to press charges against the two leaders as well as all the NGOs and officials fingered for gross negligence in the Health Ombudsman's report.

In a statement, the ANCYL said it was giving Makhura 14 working days to resign, because he had allowed Mahlangu to continue misleading the public.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura with Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi at Wednesday's media briefing

Failure to do this, it said, would result in them occupying his premises until their demand was met.

“If Qedani Mahlangu’s resignation is a sign that she genuinely regrets her actions, she must hand herself over to the nearest police station for murder and negligence,” the EFF, meanwhile, said in a statement.

The party also called for Makhura to be held accountable. “Criminalising Mahlangu alone, who served at the pleasure of the premier, is wrong the entire Gauteng ANC must hang their heads in shame for this massacre,” the EFF said.

The DA's Gauteng health spokesperson, Jack Bloom, described the deaths as tragic. “There are patients who need to be removed and rescued from these NGOs as we speak. We cannot afford to lose more lives.”

Bloom further highlighted that despite the department’s view that patients were moved to the NGOs to cut down on expenses, the department would now have to spend billions of rand compensating the families of the victims and finding suitable accommodation for the remaining patients at private institutions.

South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) operations director Cathy Chambers said the organisation would study the full report and look into the legal options available to them.

“We are appreciative of the Health Ombudsman for his thorough and detailed report. (But) it’s not enough that the MEC has resigned,” she said.

Sadag added that the Life Esidimeni crisis brought to light challenges faced by mental health patients and organisations, but said recommendations from the ombudsman to remove the 113-plus patients still at the NGOs to public hospitals was worrying, as there weren’t enough doctors or resources available.

Section27 rubbished Mahlangu’s view that she had initiated the probe into the deaths.

The organisation said the MEC had acted only because of the immense pressure she was under.

The organisation is also looking at legal alternatives and consulting with families of he deceased.

The ANC and SACP in Gauteng have welcomed interventions put in place by Makhura, with the ANC saying he had demonstrated continued accountability by the provincial government, while the SACP criticised the DA and those who, it said, sought to “hijack and manipulate” the ombudsman report for internal factional battles within the ANC and its alliance.

The Star

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