Johannesburg – Mmusi Maimane the leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday complained that he has not yet received a response three weeks after he asked President Jacob Zuma to institute a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Esidimeni tragedy.
"Tomorrow, 09 March 2017, marks three weeks since I wrote, on 16 February 2017, to President Jacob Zuma, urgently requesting that he use his constitutionally assigned authority to establish a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Esidimeni tragedy, which resulted in the death of over 100 mentally ill patients at the hands of an uncaring ANC government in Gauteng," said Maimane in a statement.
"Since writing to the President almost a month ago, I have only received an acknowledgment of receipt from the Presidency. This lengthy waiting period for a full response implies that the death of over 100 citizens, due to government negligence, is not a priority area for the Zuma-led ANC administration."
The DA leader said the ANC and Zuma "cannot tip-toe around this tragedy" and hope that it goes away.
"The reality is that the ANC has failed the most vulnerable in the country’s healthcare system, and the time for accountability is now. Like the Marikana Massacre, this tragedy requires a full probe that has the backing of the highest office in the land."
Maimane said when the DA first raised this matter in 2015, the ANC government in Gauteng ignored the warnings of the DA Gauteng MPL Jack Bloom, who shadows the provincial health department.
" ... again the ANC is ignoring the DA’s urgent request for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which will fully interrogate matters and seek justice on behalf of the victims and their families, who are still without real answers," the DA leader said.
Maimane said the inquest by the Health Ombudsman did not go far enough.
"Therefore a Judicial Commission of Inquiry is necessary in order to ascertain what exactly transpired, how it was allowed to transpire, what national governments role was – and ought to have been, and to identify the shortcoming of the current system so as to avoid a catastrophe like this from occurring again."
He said the terms of reference of the Commission ought to be wide, so as to include an investigation into the treatment of mental health patients across the country.
"A Judicial Commission of Inquiry will not bring back the victims, but that should not stop the DA from seeking accountability. Something went terribly wrong, and this will start the process of fixing it."