Yesterday, retired judge Dikgang Moseneke announced that the arbitration process had scheduled public hearings for three weeks in October.
At the end of the arbitration process, Moseneke is expected to have a report ready in 30 days.
The arbitration process is part of the recommendations contained in a report by the health ombud, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.
He found that at least 100 patients died following forced removals from various Life Esidimeni homes.
Makgoba recommended that all the NGOs that looked after the patients be shut down and investigated by the police.
A representative of the families, Christine Nxumalo, said yesterday: “What makes this process a good alternative is that we don’t have to go through the court process.
“I don’t think any family right now has the strength to go through the court process. This is a better option.”
She said the process was also important because “the people who died there outnumbered the victims of Marikana”.
Moseneke said: “The parties have chosen arbitration as the principal form of resolving their dispute and arriving at equitable redress that must include compensation that is just and equitable.”
He said his role as an arbitrator was to listen to the families and the state and make findings.
He added that while the arbitration team were preparing for the hearings, some things remained unsolved, including the number of people who died.
“The state suggested tentatively that the total might be in excess of a 100.
“The second was the indisputable identity of all the patients who died or were affected as a result of their removal from Life Esidimeni Healthcare,” Moseneke said, adding they were still looking for family members of some of the victims.
Nxumalo said the police were assisting them in trying to locate the families. “The police have come on board to help trace some relatives.”
Moseneke said while the arbitration process would help the families get closure, it would run parallel to other investigations.
“We will look into equitable redress that might not only be money, but a memorial and other methods of finding closure. But where crimes were committed, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and other agencies are obliged to continue with their probe and to bring charges.”
In July, President Jacob Zuma authorised the SIU to investigate matters relating to unlawful and improper conduct on the part of 28 NGOs that housed psychiatric patients.
One of the matters the SIU is looking into is whether the NGOs were paid “in a manner that was not fair, transparent, equitable and contrary to applicable legislation.