The South African Federation of Trade Unions is utterly appalled by the election of former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, and Chief Whip and former Gauteng health MEC Brian Hlongwa, to Gauteng ANC’s provincial executive committee (PEC), and that over the same weekend the KZN Provincial Congress elected Mike Mabuyakhulu, as its deputy chairperson.
Mahlangu presided over the tragedy in which at least 144 patients died and 28 remain missing, following the transfer of 1700 mental health patients out of Life Esidimeni facilities into ill-equipped and mainly unlicensed NGOs.
She was Health MEC between 2009 and 2010, then returned to the position in 2014 before resigning the night before the release of a damning investigation into the Life Esidimeni debacle, by Health Ombud Dr Malegapuru Makgoba.
He reported that “frail, disabled and incapacitated patients were transported in inappropriate and inhumane modes of transport, some ‘without wheel chairs but tied with bed sheets’ to support them; some NGOs rocked up in open ‘bakkies’ to fetch Mental Health Care Users (MCHUs) while others chose MCHUs like an ‘auction cattle market’… some MCHUs were shuttled around several NGOs; during transfer and after deaths several relatives of patients were still not notified or communicated to timeously; some are still looking for relatives; these conducts were most negligent and reckless and showed a total lack of respect for human dignity, care and human life.
“The department’s leaders ignored the warnings, transferred society’s most vulnerable as though they were cattle, dumped them in facilities neither equipped or prepared to handle the patients, and, essentially, left them to die.”
Melvyn Freeman, the national health department’s chief director of non-communicable diseases at the time the department began transferring patients out of Life Esidimeni facilities, has written, in The Lancet Psychiatry medical journal, that “the way people were moved, where they were moved to, how they were treated and even the handling of bodies after death, suggests that the coordinators and enforcers of the project perceived mental health users as lesser human beings… No professional is obliged to carry out an instruction if it is unlawful in their judgement or is likely to lead to the death and injury of a person.”
All this was done on Mahlangu’s watch and SAFTU demands that she be charged with culpable homicide for her role in the Esidimeni outrage.
Brian Hlongwa is implicated in a report by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) in May 2018 in alleged corrupt activities totalling R1.2bn, when he was Gauteng Health MEC between 2006 and 2009.
Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism has revealed that the Office of the Presidency had been in possession of an SIU report on Hlongwa and corruption for more than a year but has failed to act on it. This came to light after Section27 was able to obtain the report via a Promotion of Access to Information Act request. The National Prosecuting Authority subsequently requested the Hawks to re-open their investigation into Hlongwa.
SAFTU demands that the Hawks and NPA follow up the investigating into Hlongwa and bring him before a court of law.
Mike Mabuyakhulu, along with and seven businessmen and women from KZN appeared appeared the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on 6 April 2018 on 77 charges, including theft and fraud, money laundering and corruption, emanating from R28m paid for a North Sea Jazz Festival that was supposed to take place in Durban in 2012. Mabuyakhulu is out on R50 000 bail.
Yet someone facing such serious charges was elected not only to the KZN PEC but as an office-bearer.
The election of these people to such an important bodies confirms the extent to which this former liberation movement has degenerated into a corruption-ridden cabal, in which looting of public resources and causing the death of mental health patients is not only tolerated but rewarded.
SAFTU condemns the failure of Gauteng Premier David Makhura to dissociate himself from the election of Mahlangu and Hlongwa. Two weeks ago, in an interview in the Daily Maverick, Stephen Grootes asked him directly about Mahlangu. His response was:
“Knowing what I know, because the SIU and the SAPS have briefed us, I think it is one thing that the citizens will see, things don’t just happen and there are no consequences… I am quite satisfied that they are following through on what came out of the investigation of the health ombud and the arbitration processes, and that is one thing that is not going to disappear.”
“So, there will be justice?” asked Grootes. “There will be justice,” Makhura promised. “I made a commitment to the affected families, that I will walk all the way with them to ensure that justice is served.”
The “consequences” for Mahlangu and Hlongwa are election to the PEC!
In another scandal, Tony Yengeni has, despite his criminal conviction related to the Arms Deal, been elected as chairperson of the Commission of Peace and Stability (which means he will chair discussions about the role of the police service).
It is clear that the factional political manoeuvering within the ANC is regarded as more important than serving the people and complying with the law.
The big majority of public servants are conscientious, caring people who want to serve the people, particularly the most vulnerable. This makes it even more vital to root out all politicians and officials, and their accomplices in the private sector, who are involved in criminal acts. When there is any evidence of crime they must be charged, tried and, if found guilty, severely punished.