Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke chaired the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings File Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA
Three years after the Life Esidimeni tragedy, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has finally decided to launch an inquest into the deaths of the 144 mental health patients.

At least 144 mentally ill patients died after the Gauteng health department moved about 1700 patients from Life Esidimeni facilities to unsuitable NGOs and state facilities in 2016.

At least nine patients were still missing, according to what Gauteng MEC of Health Bandile Masuku told the provincial legislature.

The NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions in Pretoria Advocate George Baloyi decided to launch a formal and joint inquest into all deaths related to the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

Mjonondwane said the NPA had four advocates who worked closely with the investigators from 2017 in collecting more information to build a solid case.

“It is this process that has revealed that the evidence at our disposal currently is not enough to prove causation of death nor is it enough to help us link the actions of different role players to the eventual deaths. It is against these findings and facts of the case as a whole that the State had to make a determination whether a prima facie case justifying prosecution could be made.

“The State, therefore, correctly sets out the legal principles applicable to the problem and upon thorough assessment of all the available facts and circumstances; came to a conclusion that the matter be referred for a formal inquest,” said Mjonondwane.

The DA’s health spokesperson Jack Bloom said he was happy there was progress on the investigation.

“We are concerned that the NPA says it does not have enough evidence at this stage for a successful prosecution, but we hope that the inquest will find grounds for murder and culpable homicide charges against health department officials and those at the NGOs where people died.”