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Questions over how Makhura was unware of Esidimeni patient deaths

The Health Ombudsman says he was told on the record that the Gauteng premier was unaware of the deaths until September last year.

FILE: Gauteng Premier David Makhura. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Relatives of victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy, political parties and human rights organisations have questioned how Gauteng Premier David Makhura could have remained unaware of the deaths of almost 100 patients in the province.

On Wednesday, Health Ombudsman Professor Malekgapuru Makgoba found there had been no wrongdoing by Makhura, saying he was told the Gauteng premier was not aware of the crisis as it unfolded.

Makgoba found that former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and other senior officials within the department were negligent and reckless in their decision to transfer the patients from Life Healthcare Esidimeni to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that were operating illegally.

Mahlangu resigned just hours before the damning findings against her were made public.

The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have both now laid criminal charges against Mahlangu and Makhura.

The EFF has opted for the highest possible charge... murder.

The Health Ombudsman says he was told on the record that Makhura was unaware of the deaths until September last year when Mahlangu was asked about the matter by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the provincial legislature.

But Cassey Chambers of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group isn't buying that story.

“There was tons of press around the issue and there is a special ministerial committee for mental health that reports directly to the Minister of Health.”

Section 27's Mark Heywood agrees.

“I have to believe the premier but what I must say is he (Makhura) should have known about the situation because before it was raised in the provincial legislature, the SU had already been aired in public.”

Christine Nxumalo, whose sister was among those who died, says she intends laying criminal charges against the Gauteng government.

“I plan to take legal actions, personally and criminally.”

Makhura himself has not responded to the calls for him to step down. He said on Wednesday that he deeply regretted the tragic loss of so many lives.

Read an explainer below, courtesy of Section27:

Life Esidimeni Fact Sheet by Primedia Broadcasting on Scribd

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)