A travelling exhibition titled ‘Deadly Medicine’ opens at The Durban Holocaust and Genocide Centre on Monday.
It is important to keep telling the story of the Life Esidimeni tragedy so South Africans can safeguard themselves and their families against events such as the one that caused the deaths of 144 mentally-ill patients at psychiatric facilities in Gauteng.

This is the view of Christine Nxumalo, a member of the Life Esidimeni Family Committee, who will speak about what she went through when her sister, Virginia, was one of those who died.

She will be speaking at the opening of a travelling exhibition titled Deadly Medicine at The Durban Holocaust & Genocide Centre, at 6.30pm on Monday. A key focus of the exhibition is the dignity and inherent worth of each individual, particularly with regard to contemporary South Africa.

Nxumalo noted that it was also fitting for her to speak on the topic during Mental Health Awareness month.

“Life Esidimeni highlighted the plight of mental health. It is important to continue telling the story, making people aware of it,” said Nxumalo.

The Life Esidimeni Family Committee comprises people whose loved ones were affected by the 2015 tragedy.

When the Gauteng Health Department terminated its contract with the Life Esidimeni Group, around 1300 patients were moved by the state from a private health-care provider to ill-equipped NGOs, hospitals and their families.

The patients died for a number of reasons ranging from starvation to neglect. The incident has been called the greatest human rights violation since the advent of democracy in South Africa.

The Deadly Medicine exhibition will run until the end of the month. It traces the history from the early 20th-century international eugenics movement to the Nazi regime’s “science of race”.

An exhibition document reads: “It challenges viewers to reflect on the present-day interest in bioethics, especially genetic manipulation that promoted the possibility of biological utopias.

“South Africa remains only the second nation in the world to have created laws specifically around race, after the Nazis in Germany.

“At the same time, the exhibition intends to demonstrate the huge benefits medical science has brought to the world and the attempts and successes of adapting modern advances in underdeveloped settings.

“The exhibition is relevant in contemporary South Africa specifically because of medical issues, but more broadly because of the ongoing need to remind ourselves of the dignity of the individual.

“Just over 20 years since the end of apartheid, we are still struggling with our identity. This exhibition is a valuable reminder of the inherent worth of each person and the tragic consequences when this is forgotten.”