never again


“This is a harrowing account of the death, torture and disappearance of utterly vulnerable mental health care users in the care of an admittedly delinquent provincial government.”

Former Deputy Chief Justice - Dikgang Moseneke

There are rumours of plans to close Life Esidimeni.
The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) warns MEC Qedani Mahlangu. Patients with mental illness are at risk, if moved to places without specialised care.

Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu announces the termination of the Gauteng Department of Health’s contract with Life Esidimeni.
Nearly 2000 patients receiving chronic psychiatric care, will be moved. SADAG and SECTION27 start to assist concerned families.

Civil society organisations and families of patients mobilise.
They plead with The Department to slow down and make sure there’s proper care for mentally ill patients. Manamela and team don’t listen.

The Department won’t address serious concerns. Litigation is launched against The Department. A settlement is reached that requires The Department to provide a safe plan for the transfer. Families of mentally ill patients must be consulted.

SECTION27 and SADAG try to engage. The Department provides poor information. There are serious problems with their plans. The Department tells SADAG not to speak to the press.

The Department announces an extension of their contract with Life Esidimeni to June 2016. Then all mental healthcare patients must be out of all facilities.

SADAG accidently discovers a planned discharge is underway, in breach of the December agreement. The Department will move 54 adult patients with different chronic diagnoses to Takalani Home, an ill-equipped NGO for children.

Breach of settlement agreement. SADAG, SASOP and families litigate to stop The Department moving patients. The Department misleads the court.
They deny these patients need special mental health care services. The court rules in The Department’s favour. One week later, The Department starts moving people out.

On 26 March 2016 the first mental health care patient dies at Takalani.

Patients’ families and concerned organisations march to The Department in protest. They demand answers and safe, dignified care for loved ones. They receive no real response. Posts from concerned family members seeking answers are posted on the WhatsApp group set up by SADAG and the Family Committee.

All mental health care patients are moved out of Life Esidimeni. Some patients are sent home. Others are loaded into buses or bakkies, without their belongings, shoes or medical records.
Many families are not told of the move. Between May and June 1300 patients are transferred. Later it’s called ‘a stampede’.

Families start searching for loved ones. Many search for months. 100s call the SADAG helpline seeking help to find their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, cousins and husbands.
They’re moved to NGOs wholly inadequate without security or supervision. Some without sufficient beds, food or shelter.

Many new deaths are uncovered. Families organise and raise their voice in protest.

The MEC lies to the Gauteng legislature that no patients were discharged without the consent of their families. Eight more patients from Precious Angels die.

Jack Bloom questions MEC in parliament. She is forced to announce that 36 patients died after being moved. It’s later revealed that at this time 77 deaths had already taken place in NGOs.
Many NGOs were unsuitable, overcrowded with no security or supervision. Dubbed ‘death traps’ and ‘sites of terror’.

The Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, requests that the Health Ombud, Professor Malegapuru. W. Makgoba, investigate the deaths.

MEC Qedani Mahlangu resigns the night before the Ombuds report is released.

After delays, the Ombuds report is released. It details 94 ‘unlawful ‘deaths and the inhumane conditions and treatment of patients. It recommends families be compensated through a dispute resolution process.
The South African Human Rights Commission must also investigate the state of mental health care services in South Africa. The Ombuds Report

The Ombuds report implicates key officials. Dr Barney Selebano head of Gauteng Department of Health and Dr Makgabo Manamela Director of Mental health, are suspended for ‘gross misconduct’.

A family healing ceremony is held in Freedom Park Pretoria. Bereaved families speak of terrible conditions of bodies at mortuaries.

SECTION27, the families of the deceased, and other legal bodies prepare for arbitration. They take testimonies, counsel bereaved families and agree on a way forward. They want unlawful burials to be investigated. Retired Deputy Justice Dikgang Moseneke is appointed as the arbitrator.

Arbitration between government and the families of the Life Esidimeni victims begins. 60 witnesses testify to the inhumane treatment and torture of their loved ones.
We witness the lies, chaos and indifference of senior public servants, responsible for what happened. Evidence emerges that 144 mental health patients lost their lives.

Arbitration proceedings end.

Former Deputy Chief Justice – Dikgang Moseneke finds in favour of the families. His findings include excessive and preventable deaths caused by reckless decisions, appalling conditions of NGOs and multiple constitutional rights violations.

Justice Moseneke ordered the state to pay the families who were part of the arbitration R1.2 million in compensation. He also recommends serious accountability for those responsible, and that The Department develops and implements a mental health recovery plan. View Arbitration

Life Esidimeni