JOHANNESBURG, 22 November – A woman, whose sibling was among the Life Esidimeni patients transferred to various unlicensed NGOs where more than 100 died, on Wednesday told the arbitration hearing that her mentally challenged sister was raped numerous times at Takalani Centre, in Soweto.
The witness, who can not be named to protect the identity of the rape survivor, disputed claims that Takalani was able to offer “top care” to patients.
“My sister was raped in 2013 … she tested [HIV] negative after the rape, but now she is HIV positive and we don’t know how that happened,” the distraught woman told the hearing, which is presided over by retired deputy chief justice, Dikang Moseneke.
As many as 143 of the patients, who were caught up in the chaotic Esidimeni transfers to unlicensed NGO facilities in Gauteng, have died – some of them from starvation and neglect. Fifty nine of the patients are still unaccounted for.
The witness said her family was only made aware of her sister’s rape after she stayed in bed for three days.
“I got a call and when I went there my sister was in the bedroom sleeping, she hadn’t bathed and smelt bad. She also developed a septic wound on her private parts.”
She said she demanded an explanation from the NGO, but the response she got was not satisfactory.
“Our sister told us that it was one of the patients, but the NGO said the person is a humble guy and my sister might have led him on.”
As a result the matter was not taken further and no on one has been reported to the police.
The distraught woman said it was not the first time her sister had been raped. She said her sister was raped at the same centre, allegedly by an employee and again nothing was done.
Moseneke asked the woman if her family knew how her sister contracted HIV.
“We are still not sure, but maybe she might have been infected when she was discharged for a year because she was always on the streets and came back late in the evening. People might have taken advantage of her,” suggested the witness.
She said she was part of the group of people who marched in protest against the closure of Life Esidimeni, but their pleas were ignored.
The woman said the group also had several meetings with the Gauteng department of health. She said “they were promised” that NGOs would be inspected and patients would only be moved to centres which provided the best care.
“They never listened to us, all things that were promised were never there.”
She said her sister was later moved to Anani, which had no security and the family was constantly fearful for her safety. Her sister lost a lot of weight and appeared disheveled, the woman said.
“When we got to Anani, her clothes were not there, she had a refuse bag with clothes that weren’t hers. They were dirty and smelling.”
She said her sister has been moved to Waverley Health Care Centre, where she is being well cared for.
The hearing continues.
– African News Agency (ANA)