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JOHANNESBURG - The DA has welcomed the court judgment obtained by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) which orders two NGOs involved in the Life Esidimeni tragedy to pay back R663,275 to the Gauteng health department.

"The High Court in Pretoria ordered the Anchor Center and the Dorothy Evangeline Franks facility to pay this money as they had continued continuing to claim payment after the psychiatric patients were removed from their care," DA spokesman Jack Bloom said on Sunday.

The SIU was furthermore pursuing civil action against another nine NGOs who submitted invoices for payments for non-existent patients, he said.

"I hope that criminal charges will also be laid against the people at these NGOs who fraudulently obtained these payments."

It highlighted the administrative ineptitude of the department as they paid over money even though they should have known that the patients had been transferred elsewhere.

"I am concerned, however, at the slow progress in charging those whose criminal negligence led to 144 deaths of mental health patients in their care. Why is it taking so long for this to get to court? The lives that were lost are surely more precious than stolen money."

The DA was continuing to press Gauteng premier David Makhura to use the law to ensure that former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and her top officials contributed from their own pockets towards the more than R300 million that had so far been paid in compensation to Esidimeni victims, Bloom said.

African News Agency (ANA)