Families of the Esidimeni 37 protest outside the Health Department in Johannesburg. Picture: Chris Collingridge

Johannesburg - Some relatives of the Life Esidimeni patients are frustrated at not being informed how their payments will be made after the Gauteng government announced on Wednesday that it had paid out over R159million in compensation for their suffering.

The relatives said they were in the dark about when the money would be paid out and by whom. They asked that their names be withheld for fear of reprisal. One family member whose mother died during the project contacted Independent Media via WhatsApp requesting help in finding out how their payments would be made as no one had contacted them about their bank details.

“Hey, my brother, my sister told me that the money will go through lawyers. How possible is that hence Section 27 didn’t request our bank details? We submitted our bank details through the premier’s office last month. My man, I need your help here. How can I confirm this because I want clarity on this matter hence I tried to call Section 27 on land line but the phone rang unanswered,” read the message.

Another family member whose brother is one of the survivors who were represented by Legal Aid South Africa also asked via WhatsApp: “The families that claimed at the premier’s offices I have absolutely no idea when the verifications will be done and when will they get paid because a lot of them registered pretty early. Question is will legal aid pay the money to all the families on time?”

When contacted to clarify how the families would receive their payments, the Gauteng spokesperson Thabo Masebe said: “Money was paid to the lawyers and some claimants directly. The government has met the deadline. Payment has been made to all 134 claimants. The challenge with the payment was finding money since there was no sufficient budget allocation.

“The Office of the Premier used its budget with the understanding that more money will be allocated during the budget adjustment later in the year.”

Legal Aid SA national spokesperson Mfanafuthi Shabangu said the arrangement was that the Gauteng provincial government would “pay the bulk amount awarded to our clients into Legal Aid SA’s trust account”. “Legal Aid SA will then pay the awarded amount into the beneficiaries’ bank accounts. Legal Aid SA is representing 67 survivors and their families,” said Shabangu.

Section 27 attorney Sasha Stevenson said: “The Gauteng government has assured us that payment will be made on time. We represent 63 claimants, each of whom was awarded R1.2m.”

Last week the Gauteng government announced that payments amounting to R59m had been made to 134 claimants, including survivors and relatives of those who died. The Gauteng government said it had settled all financial claims in compliance with the award given by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, following the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process entered into with the families affected by the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

Moseneke on March 19, 2018, ordered the government to pay financial compensation to the claimants who were part of the ADR process representing the affected families. Moseneke’s ruling was that R1m be paid to each claimant for constitutional damages, R180000 for emotional trauma and R20000 funeral expenses for those who died.

The government and the affected families entered into an ADR process as recommended by health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba following his investigation into the tragedy. The DA’s health spokesperson in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, said while he welcomed the payout made ahead of the June 19 deadline, it was important that the government finalise the payment soon.

“I am pleased the provincial government has met this commitment. More money will still be paid as the relatives of the 1418 patients who survived can also make financial claims as provided for by Justice Moseneke for those who were not part of the arbitration,” said Bloom.

The Sunday Independent