Gauteng acting mental health director Dr Kobie Marais speaks about the missing Life Esidimeni patients. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)

A Soweto family has been reunited with a loved one who went missing during the Life Esidimeni marathon relocation project which claimed at least 144 lives. 

Primrose Ntamo said her brother Kleinbooi was found two months ago after a search lasting more than a year. 

Ntamo said Kleinbooi was removed from Life Esidimeni without their knowledge and they didn't know where he was moved to. “We struggled to find him. It took us almost a year. We went to mortuaries, hospitals and almost everywhere. 

"No one from the Department of Health, Esidimeni or this NGO where he was moved to tried to contact us,” said Ntamo.

She then reflected on the difficulty the family went through until they eventually found Kleinbooi. 

“The problem we had was that the number that we kept on calling went unanswered. In June my sister got a new number from a friend and we called the (Esidimeni) Waverley centre and they told us he was there. 

"That is when we went to see him. He couldn’t recognise us and he was not looking in a good state as his legs were swollen. We would not have found him if we had not kept our hopes alive by looking for him.”

The family were left with many unanswered questions for a long time. “When we were watching the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, we had sleepless nights after hearing about the horrific treatment of patients while they were being transported. 

My sister Fatima used to cry, asking us what if we didn’t find our brother again or if he had died and was buried as a pauper.”

The Sunday Independent