Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu Picture: Simone Kley

Johannesburg - The families of the victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy on Tuesday said they would not rest until former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu is removed as a member of the ANC's PEC.

This comes days after Mahlangu was re-elected to the party's provincial executive committee (PEC) at the ANC Gauteng’s elective conference that took place at the weekend.

Her re-election has sparked outcry and outrage because of her role in the Esidimeni tragedy, which resulted in the deaths of 144 mental health patients following their move to unlicensed NGOs.

The re-election of the party's chief whip in the legislature, Brian Hlongwa, who is implicated in a R1.2 billion corruption scandal that occurred during his tenure as Health MEC, has also caused a stir. 

The Life Esidimeni Family Committee reacted with shock to her re-election, saying the move was "unacceptable".

“It is unacceptable that in light of the overwhelming evidence concerning Mahlangu’s integrity and fitness to hold office that she has been re-elected," the committee said.

“Newly re-elected chairperson and premier of Gauteng David Makhura explained that Mahlangu’s case has been submitted to the ANC’s integrity committee, but instead of hauling her before this Committee ahead of the Provincial Elective Conference, they now want to use that excuse in an attempt to deceive the general public.

“Had the ANC shown serious intent to do the right thing, this process would have taken place immediately following the Life Esidimeni Arbitration Hearings. It would have sent a clear message that they were serious about the process itself and about dealing with corrupt officials within the Gauteng Provincial Government.

The committee further said: “We firmly believe that if someone is implicated in mismanagement and negligent or intentional decision-making that leads to a tragedy on the scale of Life Esidimeni, they should not be eligible for election.

“In allowing Mahlangu to participate in their PEC, the ANC is effectively condoning the most heinous acts perpetrated under Mahlangu’s watch. If ANC represents the people and is for the people, then how are these elections reflective of the will of the people?”

The committee said that Mahlangu’s inclusion in the PEC was another example of how the disgraced official appeared to be evading accountability, with the assistance of the ANC, “as it has supported her during her entire tenure as MEC in Gauteng provincial government”.

“The Life Esidimeni Arbitration was not an alternative to political or criminal accountability. We, as affected families, still await updates from the police on their criminal investigations, including in relation to Mahlangu’s role.”

The committee said that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said was yet to finalise the Life Esidimeni cases, with 45 inquest dockets apparently awaiting a decision on whether to prosecute. 

"The family committee demands to know why the police are dragging their feet on such an important matter. We need answers and we want everyone responsible to be held accountable.”

"The memories of those who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy have been dishonoured and trivialised by Mahlangu’s re-election and the committee on behalf of the families will not rest until she is removed and is brought to justice."