Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi  has apologised unconditionally to the families and the nation for the deaths of at least 144 mentally-ill patients after they were transferred to unlicensed NGOs across Gauteng.

Motsoaledi says there’s a need to investigate the possible abduction or kidnapping of the patients, as they were not properly discharged from the Life Esidimeni facility.

The DA in Gauteng has opened a missing persons case at the Johannesburg Central Police Station for 59 mentally-ill patients it says are unaccounted for.

Section27 has also suggested that 12 more mentally-ill patients have died over and above the 144 confirmed death toll.

In an emotional final statement at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg, Motsoaledi said that the patients’ rights were violated.

“I wish to apologise unconditionally to both the families and relatives of the deceased and those who are still living and to the whole nation at large, we have really wronged them in a way unimaginable. When I read the Ombud’s report about how people were put in vans and tied with sheets and how they were chosen like, as he described it, like cattle at an auction, I couldn’t imagine in our new democracy, how in a department where we put up an act and human rights were breached in this manner, it’s very painful.”