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Formal inquest set to be launched into Life Esidimeni tragedy

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said that the evidence gathered in the Life Esidimeni matter was not enough to prove cause of death or link the actions of different roleplayers to the eventual deaths.

FILE: Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu gives testimony at the Esidimeni arbitration hearing in Johannesburg on 22 January 2018. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said that the evidence gathered in the Life Esidimeni matter was not enough to prove cause of death or link the actions of different roleplayers to the eventual deaths.

As a result of this, the State said it had resolved to launch a formal and joint inquest into all deaths related to the tragedy.

One hundred and forty-four patients died as a result of the Gauteng Health Department's decision to remove them from proper medical care in 2016.

The commission of inquiry into the tragedy last year found that government officials "acted in breach of the law and the Constitution" when they ended the Life Esidimeni contract and moved patients to NGOs without due regard for their wellbeing and state of health.

The NPA said it received 144 enquiry dockets regarding the Life Esidimeni tragedy in April 2017 and the acting director of public prosecutions Advocate George Baloyi assigned a team of four experienced advocates to work closely with the investigators in collecting more information to build a solid case.

It said this process had revealed that the evidence at its disposal was not enough to prove the exact cause of death or link the deaths to any specific person.

This was despite loud calls from civil rights organisations and opposition parties for senior officials in the Health Department, especially Qedani Mahlangu, who was the Health MEC at the time of the tragedy, to be held personally accountable.

The State said that from these findings it had to make a determination whether a prima facie case justifying prosecution could be made.

Instead, it said that the advocates assigned to gather evidence in the matter had now decided that the matter be referred for a formal inquest.

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