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Esidimeni tragedy: Minister says it’s up to NPA to prosecute

The Health Ombudsman revealed the number of psychiatric patients who died has passed the 100 mark.

Life Esidimeni protestors outside the Gauteng health department in Johannesburg. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN.

CAPE TOWN – Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says it will be up to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to decide whether anybody involved in the Life Esidimeni scandal should face criminal charges.

The Health Ombudsman on Wednesday told Parliament the number of patients who died has passed the 100 mark and no longer stands at 94 - as previously announced.

Members of Parliament (MPs) felt more stringent action needed to be taken against officials implicated in the Esidimeni report, including the former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, who resigned in the wake of the report.

A look at how the events surrounding the deaths of 94 patients from the Life Esidimeni Hospital.

Motsoaledi told Parliament's health committee that the Gauteng Health Department had deliberately not followed agreed-upon plans for the de-institutionalisation of mental healthcare when it transferred patients to illegally licensed non-governmental organisations.

But he says they might not be entirely to blame for what happened.

“It’s possible that they might have been hiding something, but I can tell you my honest belief is that they didn’t know. How will you know when you don’t even know who went where? Because you did not send the people there, they came and collected. Surely the NGOs were not with anybody from Gauteng when they came there to collect.”

Several officials implicated have indicated they intend appealing the Health Ombudsman’s findings, including suspended Head of Department Dr Barney Selebano.

(Edited by Tamsin Wort)