Families of 144 Life Esidimeni patients who died after they were relocated from psychiatric facilities in Gauteng have welcomed the announcement of a formal inquest by the National Prosecutors Authority (NPA) scheduled to start in July.

The 2015 incident saw scores of patients die, many through allegations of neglect after the Gauteng Health Department cancelled its contract with Life Esidimeni and relocated patients to NGO facilities that could not care for them adequately.

Now the families say they hope this will help them find closure.

Christine Nxumalo who lost her sister says she believes that some families were unable to find their relatives because their names were changed and files destroyed.

She says, “We are very happy about the inquest into the deaths of our loved ones. We are just sad that it hadn’t happened earlier but we are happy that it has happened now, we are hoping to get some results.”

“When they moved our loved ones from Life Esidimeni, many of the names were referred to as unknown which means those we couldn’t find at the time, we were trying to trace them, we found it difficult to get the names of their loved ones,” added Nxumalo.

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The formal inquest follows damning findings by Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who led an inquiry into the tragedy. He found government officials acted in breach of the law and the Constitution.

Regional NPA spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana says Judge President Dunstan Mlambo has now appointed a judge to lead the inquest.

“Indeed, the Life Esidemeni Formal Inquest hearing will start on 19 July 2021. This was determined in a meeting held earlier today by Judge Teffo, the National Prosecuting Authority, and the different representatives for the families, NGOs and legal defence.”

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