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To: Premier David Makhura, Gauteng government
Stand with the families of Life Esidimeni
In the Award from the alternative dispute resolution process of 2017, Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke instructed the Gauteng government to establish a Monument to remember the suffering, trauma, torture, and deaths caused by the Gauteng Department of Health. In the words of Justice Moseneke, this monument was supposed to be constructed in a prominent and appropriate location within a year “to serve as a reminder to future generations of the human dignity and vulnerability of mental health care users.”
But over three years after the Arbitration Award, and five years after patients were moved out of Life Esidimeni in 2016, neither the Gauteng Department of Health nor the provincial government has done anything to memorialise the mental healthcare users who died because of the inhumane, degrading, and cruel violations of human rights by the Gauteng government, health officials and NGO owners.
Why is this important?
Despite promises of a monument, and government officials vowing to apologise to each
individual grieving family, government has done nothing. We, in support of the bereaved family members, demand accountability for the violations of human rights of mental healthcare users in the province and call on government to admit its wrongdoings publicly through the construction of the “Living Monument” and the five focused facilities to be attached to existing clinics in all five regions in Gauteng, as envisaged by the Life Esidimeni Family Committee. A formal inquest into the deaths due to the Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project will begin in Pretoria on 19 July 2021. A Judge will assess evidence surrounding each of the mental healthcare users’ deaths and make recommendations about potential criminal liability on the part of government officials and NGO owners.
While we want those responsible for this atrocity to be put in jail, we acknowledge that mental healthcare users in the province remain vulnerable and under-supported due to an uncaring government that has failed to prioritise their needs. This issue needs more visibility, as society’s treatment of people with mental illness is currently characterised by stigma and silence, which make life harder for mental healthcare users and their loved ones. A monument will contribute to efforts to combat stigma against mental healthcare users. We cannot turn a blind eye to the needs of some of the most vulnerable groups of people in our society. They are our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. We need a memorial to ensure this never happens again, and so that the memories of the lives lost in the Life Esidimeni tragedy is never forgotten. Never again can such a tragedy occur in our land.