Section27 advocate Adila Hassim‚ who represents the families of 55 people who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy‚ speaks during the closing arguments of the Esidimeni arbitration. Picture: Itumeleng English/ANA

Johannesburg - No amount of money would help Vaughan van Rooyen deal with the emotional anguish of losing his sister Cindy.

Van Rooyen told of the emotional pain and stress he still goes through after Cindy’s death last April.

Cindy, who was 35, was epileptic with the mental capacity of a 1-year-old child. She was moved from Life Esidimeni Randfontein to Takalani NGO in Soweto.

He recounted the dire condition he discovered Cindy in when he visited her at Takalani NGO, which was licensed to care only for children.

He said she was unwashed and hungry. “When I went to see her I brought her favourite treats - cheese puffs and marshmallows - but she could not even eat that. They had not fed her or given her any water.”

She also had not been given her medicine, he said.

Van Rooyen said his sister had also not been bathed for days and her panties were filled with faeces. He likened the smell to that of a neglected dog.

She was transferred to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital where she died two days later.

During proceedings at the Life Esidimeni alternative dispute resolution on Thursday, Section 27 argued that the families of those who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy be given constitutional damages of at least R1.5 million each. The constitutional damages refer to the belief that the patients’ rights to proper healthcare as enshrined in the constitution were trampled on.

Read: Families of #LifeEsidimeni victims to get R200K

In their arguments before retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, Advocate Adila Hassim said the figure would have been what the government would have spent on the psychiatric patients had they not been moved to the NGOs.

Hassim said they reached the R1.5m price tag after working with an actuary. “The figure is not meant to represent the value of life but to look into circumstances like the breach of rights and the ongoing disregard of attempts by families to save the situation.”

She said there was no exact science in calculating the amount.

She also informed Justice Moseneke that Section 27 and the state reached an agreement that families be awarded R20 000 for funeral costs and R180 000 for emotional shock.

However, Legal Aid SA’s advocate, Lilla Crouse, argued that families be compensated with R20 000 each for counselling.

This, she said, would allow eight counselling sessions.

Crouse also argued that families be given an additional R300 000 each and the survivors be awarded R750 000 each as part of general damages.

“We would submit that general damages are not sufficient in this matter. You have seen atrocious evidence in this matter,” Crouse said.

Though the two parties have reached the agreement, Justice Moseneke as the arbitrator will determine the final amount at the end of the alternative dispute resolution process.

Speaking to Independent Media on the figure for mental shock and the funeral costs, Van Rooyen said it was not enough. He said the families should receive at least R3.5m each.

“They were harmless people. We deserve more but at the end of the day it is not all about money. Someone must go to jail,” Van Rooyen said.

The Star