Still no sign of Life Esidimeni memorial
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Pretoria - Families of the mentally ill patients who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy are calling on the Gauteng provincial government to establish a living memorial consisting of special mental health care clinics in their remembrance.
In the award from the alternative dispute resolution process of 2017, former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke instructed the Gauteng government to establish a monument to remember the suffering, trauma, torture, and deaths, allegedly caused by the provincial Department of Health.
In the words of Justice Moseneke, this monument was supposed to be constructed in a prominent and appropriate location within a year “to serve as a reminder to future generations of the human dignity and vulnerability of mental health care users.”
But over three years after the arbitration award, and five years after patients were moved out of Life Esidimeni in 2016, neither the Gauteng Department of Health nor the provincial government has done anything to memorialise the mental healthcare users who died.
The families, supported by Section27, said despite promises of a monument, and government officials vowing to apologise to each individual grieving family, government has done nothing.
“We, in support of the bereaved family members, demand accountability for the violations of human rights of mental health care users in the province.
“We call on the government to admit its wrongdoings publicly through the construction of the living monument and the five focused facilities to be attached to existing clinics in all five regions in Gauteng, as envisaged by the Life Esidimeni Family Committee,” Section27 said.
A formal inquest into the deaths - known as the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project - started in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, earlier this month.
The court will assess evidence surrounding each of the mental healthcare users’ deaths, and make recommendations about potential criminal liability on the part of government officials and NGO owners.
The inquest will resume on Monday after it stood down this week for those who may be implicated to be fully legally represented during the inquest.
The families meanwhile said while they want those responsible to be put in jail. They said mental healthcare users in the province remained vulnerable.
They feel that government is not doing enough for those with mental health issues. According to the families, this issue needs more visibility, as society’s treatment of people with mental illness was characterised by stigma.