Life Esidimeni judgment, what happens next?

The NPA will decide on the next step after judgment was handed down in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

The NPA will decide on the next step after judgment was handed down in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Published Jul 11, 2024


On Wednesday, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and former head of Gauteng mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela, were liable for the deaths of mental health patients in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

This judgment comes three years after the inquest hearing started before Judge Mmonoa Teffo in July 2021.

An inquest was opened after 144 patients died between June 2016 and October 2017, when they were transferred from private psychiatric facilities to community organisations.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), proceedings began with 40 witnesses who were called to testify.

"Some of those witnesses include MEC Qedani Mahlangu, Dr Makgabo Manamela, the former Gauteng Premier David Makhura and the former Gauteng Finance MEC Barbara Creecy,“ said NPA spokesperson, Lumka Mahanjana.

In the judgment, Judge Teffo found that Mahlangu and Manamela can be held liable for the death of eight patients; Virginia Macaphela, Terence Chaba, Lucky Maseko, Josiah Daniels, Charity Ratsotso, Deborah Phehla, Matlakala Elizabeth Motsohae, and Koketso Mogoerane.

The judge also found that no one can be held liable for the other 133 patients that died. Most of the patients died from hunger and hypothermia.

What happens next?

Mahanjana explained that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will thoroughly study the judgment in order to make a determination on whether the NPA will institute prosecutions against the two individuals whom the court found can be held liable for the deaths.

Meanwhile, AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit and Solidarity Helping Hand say they will study the judgment before deciding on how to proceed, however, they are encouraged that the case will be referred back to the NPA to reconsider a prosecution.

AfriForum represented one of the families of the deceased, Jaco Stols, who died in 2016.

Stols had been relocated from Life Esidimeni to another facility where he was allegedly starved to death.

"The verdict is a small step towards the justice we’ve been seeking for so long. We are grateful that those in prominent positions who were directly responsible for this tragedy are being held accountable. The victims who couldn’t help themselves died of dehydration, starvation and neglect," said managing director of media at Solidarity Helping Hand, Rene Roux.

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