South African judge holds officials accountable for patient deaths

In a landmark ruling, a South African judge has found former provincial health minister Qedani Mahlangu and the then head of mental health, Makgabo Manamela, negligent in the deaths of at least 144 psychiatric patients.

The tragedy unfolded in 2016 when the Gauteng health department, under Mahlangu’s leadership, terminated a contract with Life Esidimeni Psychiatric Hospital in a cost-saving measure. 

Patients were then transferred to ill-equipped, unlicensed facilities.

Judge Mmonoa Teffo of the Pretoria High Court stated that the decision to move patients came despite warnings from professionals. 

The judge emphasized that Mahlangu’s actions “led to the regrettable and unfortunate deaths” of some vulnerable individuals.

A subsequent investigation revealed that over 1,300 patients were hastily relocated to facilities likened to “concentration camps.”

These centers lacked basic resources, leading to severe malnourishment, dehydration, and ultimately, death for some patients.

The ruling has brought a sense of vindication to families who lost loved ones. However, Andrew Pieterson, whose uncle perished in the tragedy, expressed a desire for further justice beyond the court’s verdict. 

He highlighted that some families haven’t received the full compensation amount offered by the government in 2018.

The Gauteng health ministry has acknowledged the court’s decision and stated they will formally respond after reviewing the judgement and its implications.

This case raises serious concerns about government accountability and the importance of prioritizing patient well-being in healthcare decisions.

Scroll to Top