The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday said it has written to Gauteng Premier David Makhura to demand that he takes action to recover from implicated state officials some of the millions of rand paid out to compensate victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
The DA said it had sent letters of demand to Makhura and Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa to begin the process to compel implicated officials to pay for their wrong-doing.
DA Gauteng member of the provincial legislature, Jack Bloom, said the “joint wrongdoers” include former Gauteng Health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, former Gauteng Head of Department for Health, Dr. Barney Selebano and former Chief Director Mental Health, Dr. Makgabo Manamela.
Bloom, who shadows the health department, said the trio should be compelled to pay a portion of the R159 million arbitration awarded to relatives of those who suffered and died.
More than 140 mentally ill patients died as a result of a botched attempt to move them from Life Esidimeni to NGOs – some that were not registered to cater for such vulnerable people.
“We insist that Mahlangu and senior officials pay directly for their wilful criminality that resulted in enormous suffering to vulnerable people and 144 deaths,” said Bloom.
He cited the Apportionment of Damages Act 34 of 1956, where more than one person may be held liable for a wrongful act, as an appropriate instrument to deal with them.
The Act provides that a party that has been found liable in a civil claim, and has paid this claim in full, can act to recover from those who were also allegedly liable to recover a contribution for their fair share of what has been paid.
Last month the provincial government paid R159.46 million to 134 claimants in terms of the arbitration award by Justice Dikgang Motseneke.
The retired deputy chief justice awarded each claimant R1 million for the loss of life, R20 000 to cover funerals and R180 000 for trauma and psychological distress.
“This money has come from the budgets of provincial government departments, which adversely affects service delivery,” explained Bloom.
Bloom said the DA believes that taxpayers should not have to pay for the “egregious misconduct of government officials” and that the perpetrators should pay from their own pockets to cover the damage they caused.
“Former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, for instance, earned R1.9 million a year and left with a substantial pension, while Selebano and Manamela also earned well,” said Bloom.
He said the DA has given the Gauteng government, which is led by the African National Congress, 60 days to take legal action against Mahlangu, Selebano and Maluleke.
“There is some urgency as action in terms of the Act needs to take place within one year,” said Bloom.