Judge Dikgang Moseneke has released his report on the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings. File picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA

Johannesburg - The families of 144 psychiatric patients who died after being transferred from Life Esidimeni to unregistered charities will be awarded R1.2 million each in compensation.

The 2016 tragedy, which many have called one of the worst human rights violations of the post-apartheid era, shocked and traumatised South Africans.

"The government is ordered to pay R20 000 in funeral costs, pay R180 000 for shock and trauma, R1 million appropriate relief for breaching the constitution and mental health act," Justice Dikgang Moseneke ruled Monday.

Moseneke's judgement came after an emotionally charged arbitration process that ended last month, during which dozens of family members testified about how their loved ones were tied up and moved in trucks "like cattle."

Many of them later died from starvation, dehydration and cold at the new facilities. Other patients are still missing.


The hearings also saw numerous government officials give testimony. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi broke down in tears, calling the tragedy "reminiscent of the apartheid era."

The minister has apologised and several lower level provincial officials have resigned, but no criminal charges have yet been brought.

It is still unclear why 1 700 mentally ill patients were moved to charities that were unfit to care for them. The Gauteng government says it was because of financial constraints, but the hearings suggested that was not the case.

"The death and torture of those who died ... stemmed from arrogant and irrational use of public power," Moseneke said.