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never again

protests

Family members made 144 crosses for a protest outside the Arbitration.

protests 2

Family members form a prayer circle during a lunch break at the Arbitration.

A social movement for change

Maud Motsoahae’s, mother was moved from Life Esidimeni Randfontein. Maud searched for her mother for months and finally found her at Precious Angels, sick, dehydrated and unable to sit up straight. Her mom passed away soon afterwards. “After my mother died I was lost. I sat in a corner and cried for months and months. One day I was listening to the radio and I heard there was a protest march in town. Families who’s loved ones had also died were marching. I got up and drove straight there to join them. Since that day, I no longer felt I had to fight alone.”

The Life Esidimeni story is one of unimaginable horror and hardship. But it is also a story of courage and tenacity. A story of ordinary people, who worked tirelessly for two years to seek justice. It demonstrates the power of people, to find strength in one another, organise, fight back and hold government to account.

Pulling together

Christine Nxumalo, a key organiser on the Life Esidimeni Family Committee recalls: “What drove us, was that this shared crisis, was deeply personal and painful. But SADAG and SECTION27 held us up when it all felt overwhelming and pulled us together. They helped focus our anger, met with us, helped us organise and offered counselling and advice. There was a constant flow of information keeping us up to date with what was happening.”

Family members, supported by SADAG formed a WhatsApp group to help one another search for their loved ones. Over a couple of months SADAG took thousands of calls and worked tirelessly to assist families to find their mothers, brothers, sisters and children who were missing. And at SECTION27 a committed and dedicated team, worked round the clock for months and months meeting the families; gathering statements and evidence and offering counselling.

Christine says she also witnessed a real change among family members. “In the beginning, there were people who felt there was no point. Our government will not do anything and we can’t stop them. There is no justice. But as we gained momentum, I saw them start to believe in themselves. I watched them see that they could do something.”