Martha Marais: Sad farewell to patient chained to Mamelodi Hospital bench
Pretoria - It was an emotional occasion for the family of Martha Marais, who was buried on Saturday at the Eersterust cemetery.
Marais dominated the headlines last year after a video showing her chained under a bench at Mamelodi Hospital went viral on social media.
Family, friends and Eersterust community members descended on the local Anglican Church on Saturday to pay their respects to the woman described as friendly and a straight-talker.
The 76-year-old died on October 16 at the Eersterust Association and Community Health Centre shortly after visiting her children and celebrating her son Vernon’s birthday.
Mourners shared fond memories of her and described her as loving and full of jokes.
Inside the church, people sat a distance apart from each other with masks covering their mouths and noses in line with Covid-19 regulations.
They also listened to hymns and songs of praise, played from a music system.
Overwhelmed with grief, some family members who sat in the front row broke down as speakers relayed messages of comfort to them.
One of the speakers was the provincial head of the SA Human Rights Commission, Buang Jones, who recalled how Marais was traumatised by the experience of being tied up under a bench at the hospital.
“The commission was told that Marais went to the hospital to seek medical advice. She was found by her daughter lying on the floor with her hand tied to the bench,” Jones said.“The commission was really concerned about the reports and decided to assist Marais in taking action against the Gauteng Department of Health,” he said.
Following a probe into the incident, five hospital staff members were placed on special leave and a settlement agreement was reached between Marais’s family and the department.
Jones told mourners that the incident was one of the examples of the deteriorating health services in Gauteng, largely due to corruption and maladministration.
“There is a dire state of infrastructure and all these concerns lead to increased pressure on the staff, a bad attitude among them and poor healthcare services,” he said.
The Department of Health's MEC, Bandile Masuku, was recently axed over allegations related to a personal protective equipment tender. Both the head of department and the chief financial officer also resigned.
Jones asked the community to continue the legacy of Marais by championing the fight against human rights abuse.
“In her memory, we should dedicate ourselves to the promotion and advancement of human rights. We should confront the social challenges that face our communities."
He cherished the selfless efforts made by Marais’s children, who took care of their mom and did not abandon her while she was sick.
Family spokesperson Virginia Keppler said Marais was a very firm person and very straightforward.
She also expressed thanks to her family for demonstrating their love and care for Marais.
Keppler urged people not to stop the fight against human rights abuse. “There are a lot of injustices around us, in our homes, at schools and everywhere,” she said.
Father Elroy Damon, who presided over the church service, preached about the importance of forgiveness and asked the family to find it in their hearts to forgive those who had wronged their beloved Marais. “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven,” he said.