Life Esidimeni families want R1.5m each for constitutional damage

On top of the R200‚000 compensation for emotional shock‚ psychological injury and funeral expenses from the State‚ Life Esidimeni families want each claimant to receive R1.5-million for constitutional damage redress.

JANUARY 22, 2018. Dikgang Moseneke during proceedings. Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu appears before the Esidimeni arbitration hearings probing the deaths of at least 143 mentally ill patients.The scandal happened under MahlanguÕs watch when the patients were moved into unlicensed and ill-equipped NGOs.Mahlangu has only recently returned to South Africa from Londonâ where she is studying. PHOTOGRAPH: ALON SKUY

On Thursday‚ the Life Esidimeni arbitration convened for closing arguments in Parktown‚ Johannesburg. Though the two parties agreed on the emotional trauma claim under common law‚ in respect of the claim for constitutional damages‚ the State and Section 27 did not reach an agreement.

Section 27 Advocate Adila Hassim argued why the State should compensate the families for the violation of constitutional rights.

“The figure is not intended to represent the value of life. It takes into account the series of circumstances and the breach of rights. Including the ongoing disregard of attempts by families to save this situation‚” said Hassim.

Hassim said they were claiming Constitutional damages because the reasons for the termination of the Life Esidimeni facility were false and the manner in which the patients were treated was an infringement of their human rights.

“Some of the families said the treatment towards their loved ones was worse than the treatment of a township dog. We submit that they were stripped off their dignity during this process‚” she submitted.

Hassim also said: “Officials ignored warnings. Families were traumatised by the process.”

Retired deputy chief justice‚ Dikgang Moseneke‚ presiding over the arbitration‚ asked if the fact that the State was cooperating was not a factor to consider.

“We are dealing with an apologetic State in comparison to the State’s response in the Marikana matter‚” Moseneke said.

To which Hassim responded‚ “Hearing an explanation or an apology is part of getting redress. Even in those apologies‚ it doesn’t take away from what happened. The apologies don’t take away from the breach. To which‚ we still stand here today without answers.”

The State on Thursday confirmed it has agreed to pay out R200‚000 to each Life Esidimeni tragedy claimant as compensation.

Breaking down the compensation‚ Hassim said R180‚000 is for the emotional trauma and psychological impact while the R20‚000 will cover funeral costs. Counselling will also be provided by the State.

Advocate Tebogo Hutamo of the State said: “I confirm‚ Justice‚ that an agreement has been reached to pay R200‚000 to each family who lost their loved ones. This is only for the common law claim.”

The families of 63 deceased mental health care users and their legal representatives‚ Section27‚ welcomed the agreement reached with the State on the common law damages.

The parties also agreed to have a place of remembrance for the victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy and counselling for bereaved family members.

Between the State and Legal Aid South Africa‚ which represents the survivors‚ no agreement has been reached yet.

“We will await to hear from them. On the last communication with Legal Aid‚ an offer related to counselling has been made to them‚” said Hutamo.

Subsequent to the closing arguments‚ Moseneke will have a 30-day deadline to pen a final judgment with recommendations including compensation or criminal justice remedy.

Nothing is final until Moseneke’s judgment.

BY KGAUGELO MASWENENG

Source: TMG Digital

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