- Ethel Ncube, the owner of Precious Angels, one of the unlicensed nongovernmental organisations that housed mental health patients who died after their transfer from Life Esidimeni, has rejected accusations that patients died of hunger and cold. This comes as Sandra de Villiers testified how her brother Jaco Stols was allegedly mistreated at Siyabadinga where patients were said to walk around naked during winter.
Life Esidimeni Patients Loaded Like Goats Into a Truck – Family
The families of two Life Esidimeni patients testified on Thursday how they were never informed that their relatives would be moved to different institutions, including a number of unlicensed NGOs.
Reverend Joseph Maboe, 80, only discovered that his son Billy was moved away from Life Esidimeni when he went to visit him in June last year.
But before that, Maboe told the arbitration hearing into the deaths of Life Esidimeni patients that he went to visit his son one day, only to find two trucks loading patients at the institution.
“I saw two big trucks loading people [in May 2016]. They were so confused, the poor people. Some of them were crying, some were in wheelchairs,” Maboe said.
“They were so confused. They were like goats or sheep at an auction,” he said.
Maboe said he went back in June to find his son was no longer there, and Life Esidimeni had been replaced by a different facility.
“I became very worried,” he said. “I prayed everyday, I scouted around. We were haunted [not knowing where Billy was].”
On his 79th birthday, Maboe got a call from his son, which finally allowed him to track him down.
He told the hearing that after visiting him; he was shocked to find him in the condition he was in.
“When I looked at Billy, I got the shock of my life. He looked frail, he looked disorientated, he looked hungry, he look filthy, he was stinking,” Maboe explained.
The following week, Maboe got a call from the NGO telling him his son was taken to hospital and that he was very ill.
Maboe testified that he only managed to get transport to go visit his son in hospital on the Friday, leaving Randfontein around 14:30. When they arrived around 16:30, Maboe was told that Billy passed away earlier that day.
Given a chance to comment after his testimony, Maboe said he was disappointed that officials did not listen when they asked to be heard.
“My own understanding and my own assessment, [is] we would not be sitting here if they left those people at Life Esidimeni… All these people, they could still be alive,” he said.
A painful experience
Maboe’s testimony was followed by Monomong Welheminah Thejane, whose brother Daniel Charles Josiah, also passed away after he was moved without the family being notified.
Thejane testified that after tracking her brother down, following his move away from Life Esidimeni, she found him in a weak condition.
“He did not even have his file from Esidimeni, he did not have his ID document, they did not know anything about his medical history,” she said through an interpreter.
Thejane said it has been a painful experience for her and her family, as two of her sisters have since also passed away.
Asked whether she wanted to say something to any of the officials who had come to testify, she said: “I have nothing to say to them.”
The hearings continue on Friday with more family members expected to testify.
I’ve Been Having Nightmares – Daughter of Life Esidimeni Patient
The daughter of a Life Esidimeni patient who died at an NGO after she was moved, said the death of her mother has taken a physical, mental and emotional toll on the entire family.
Boitumelo Mangena, 24, told the arbitration hearing on Friday that she had been using muscle relaxants and sleeping pills since her mother’s demise at Takalani, an NGO in Soweto where the conditions had been described as “appalling”.
“When we went to look at her body, I literally ran out, it was that bad… I’ve been having nightmares ever since,” said Mangena.
She told the hearings that her mother, Raisibe Rahab Mangena, had suffered from vascular dementia and had been a patient at Life Esidimeni in Randfontein before she was moved to Takalani.
“At Life Esidimeni, she was stable, she was comfortable around the nurses, she developed a relationship with the nurses.”
Shocked at circumstances
She said that between herself, her sister, two brothers and an aunt, they always ensured her mother had a visitor every weekend.
Mangena said she had been informed their mother had been moved to another facility after her sister went to visit.
In May, her brother established that their mother had been moved to Takalani in Soweto.
After visiting, Mangena said her brother was shocked by the conditions in which he had found their mother.
“He says the circumstances there was devastating.”
The facility was overcrowded, their mother wore the same clothes she had worn at Life Esidimeni and she had lost a lot of weight.
“He didn’t even recognise my mom the first time. She lost a lot of weight,” she said.
Their mother was sitting on a bench in the corner, without socks or a jersey as winter was approaching.
“She was shivering… [The staff] had no training, they had no experience, they had no skills,” she said.
Mangena told the arbitration hearing that her brother witnessed staff at Takalani give patients the same medication from three different boxes.
“Each patient was getting the same medication… The patients who could walk themselves to the nurses, got the medication,” she said.
Within three weeks of being moved to Takalani, her mother died on June 6. The family was only informed the next day of her passing.
“I was on my way to go write my paper when I got the call from my brother… I was going to write economics, my major,” she said.
The family was told their mother died from cardiac arrest and epilepsy, but her mother was never epileptic.
Mangena said the family was told she actually had a series of mild strokes, which to an untrained person would look like epileptic fits.
The hearings continue.