Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. PHOTO: Supplied

Johannesburg - The father of Hendrick Maboe, who died after he was transferred from Life Esidimeni to an NGO in Hammanskraal, on Thursday lashed out at government's fatal decision to relocate mentally ill patients, adding that all the 141 who died would still be alive if they were left at Esidimeni.

"We could not be sitting here if these people were left at Esidimeni...they could all still be alive. It was not God's will that they died..God is not evil," he told the arbitration hearing chaired by retired Justice Dikgang Moseneke.

"The officials say 'Batho Pele' [people first] but they themselves do not care. As you can see what is happening in the country, they [government] do not know what they are doing...and I am telling you the worst is still to come for this government, I am sorry to say that."

Maboe's son, affectionately known as Billy, had been at many psychiatric institutions from a young age. He was at Esidimeni for 20 years, the longest compared to the other institutions. Maboe said Billy was epileptic, a condition he suffered from from his teenage years.

He was transferred to Bophelong, an NGO in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, without his father's knowledge.

"Billy loved being at Esidimeni, he was nearer to home, and had adapted to the environment at Esidimeni. He was happy to be there also because he could see his cousin, who is a nurse there."

During one of his visits in May 2016, Maboe said he noticed two trucks at Esidimeni and saw patients taken from the wards to the trucks, led by nurses.

"They looked so confused, some of them were crying, they did not know what was happening at that moment. They each held plastic bags, they were like sheep going to an auction...I was so hurt to witness the forced removal initiated by government."

When he returned to Esidimeni to check when his son would be moved, he found builders renovating the premises. 

He was not allowed in, and was told no one else was in the premises, the place would house a rehabilitation centre. Maboe said he spent months not knowing where his son was until he called him to wish him a good birthday, and was able to locate him in Hammanskraal.

Maboe said he found Billy looking disorientated, hungry and dirty. The premises housed 40 men who slept in a garage at the back of the house. He was not allowed to drink water because he wet himself, Maboe was told.

"I asked a woman there about the diet and whether they received medication...she said there was no medication and that the patients were taken to a local clinic whenever they were ill. Most did not have [identity documents] IDs or [South African Social Security Agency] Sassa cards," Maboe said.

''I found him to be very quite at that place of death...he was not talking and said he was thirsty and hungry.''

He said the NGO refused to allow him to take his son home. He later received a phone call in July informing him of his son's death.

- African News Agency (ANA)

(Edited by: Devereaux Morkel)