Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Friday said it "welcomed" the appointment of retired deputy chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, to lead the alternative dispute resolution process involving families of the more than 100 mental health patients who died in the Esidimeni tragedy.

This after health minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement with representatives of the families and relatives of the victims of the 'Life Esidimeni' tragedy on the alternative dispute resolution process.

More than 100 mentally ill patients died from neglect and a lack of food, among other conditions, between March to December 2016 in Gauteng after the provincial health department had moved about 1 600 of them from Life Esidimeni Mental Health facilities to NGOs in a bid to cut costs.

The parties agreed to appoint Moseneke to lead the process, and he would, at the earliest convenience, convene a meeting to outline the mediation process.

Moseneke's appointment is in line with the Health Ombudsman's recommendation that the minister of health must facilitate a process jointly with the premier to contact all affected individuals and families, and enter into an alternative dispute resolution process, and that "a credible prominent South African with an established track record should lead such a process".

DA provincial spokesperson on health, Jack Bloom, said the party supported this approach which avoids long-drawn-out legal proceedings as had occurred with the Marikana deaths. 

Bloom was the one who blew the whistle about the Life Esidimeni tragedy during Qedani Mahlangu's tenure as MEC for Health. 

"A fair settlement for the relatives should include financial compensation, while bearing in mind that no amount of money can recompense for the loss of a loved one," Bloom said.

"Moseneke is an excellent choice as he has the integrity and competence to ensure appropriate recompense and closure for the Esidimeni families. My concern is that police investigations into the Esidimeni deaths have been inexcusably slow."

Bloom said all those implicated in the deaths should be "swiftly brought to justice".

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