Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was brought to tears as he apologised to the famalies of the mentally patients who died during the Life Esidimeni chaotic project. PHOTO: ANA

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Health minister breaks down as he apologises to families of Life Esidimeni patients

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi shed tears on Wednesday, as he apologised to family members of the mentally ill patients who died after being transferred from Life Esidimeni to unlicensed non-governmental organisations.

“When I read the [health] ombudsman report about how people were bundled in vans and tied with sheets and how they were treated like cattle at an auction,” said an emotional Motsoaledi with his hands covering his face.

Motsoaledi said he was ashamed that this happened in a department where human rights was being preached more than any other department.

“I feel personally betrayed that colleagues who are working with me could do something like that. My appearance today in this gathering, was in terms of the recommendation and to try and shed some light and I’m disappointed once more that I’m unable after 18 months to shed some light as to what was the motive of this,” he said with tears in his eyes.

He said the provincial health department needed to be overhauled completely.

“I have never seen such dubious characters.”

Motsoaledi was the last person to testify at the Life Esidimeni  arbitration hearings on Wednesday.

At least 144 mentally ill patients following the bungled relocation from Life Esidimeni facilities to ill-equipped non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the province. Most people died of starvation and neglect.

The hearings seek to help provide family members with closure and redress.

Earlier, it was revealed that 12 additional bodies were not included in the 144. Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba is expected to verify the bodies.

During her testimony, Gauteng health member of the executive council (MEC) Gwen Ramokgopa said out of the 59 patients who went missing during the chaotic project, four have been located.

She said she received reports that seven more patients have been located but she still needs time to verify the information.

There may be an additional 12 deaths from the botched transfer of mentally ill patients, the arbitration hearings into the Life Esidimeni scandal heard on Wednesday.

Non-governmental organisation Section 27  told the hearing that there were 12 more patients who had not been included in the death toll of 144.

Advocate Nikki Stein revealed this information while cross examining Gauteng health member of the executive council (MEC) Gwen Ramokgopa on Wednesday.

“You are saying there are 12 more cold bodies that have not been accounted for? That pushes the number of deceased to more than 156,” said retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke who is chairing the arbitration proceedings.

However, Moseneke insisted that Stein could not question Ramokgopa about the 12 bodies until their identities had been confirmed.

State advocate Tebogo Hutamo said they also had to verify whether the deaths occurred during the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

Moseneke insisted that he wanted an answer by Wednesday still. The matter was adjourned until the identities of the deceased could be verified.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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