Life Esidimeni inquest: Private Prosecution Unit cross examines previous deputy director in charge of NGO’s

Adv. Phyllis Vorster, prosecutor at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, today cross-examined Hanna Jacobus, previous Deputy Director in charge of non-governmental organisations (NGO) at the Department of Health in the formal inquest into the Life Esidimeni tragedy. During the cross-examination Adv. Vorster put it to Jacobus that she issued licenses to NGO’s that did not adhere to standards to adequately look after patients and also that she on various occasions did not follow the correct procedures as there were no service delivery agreements or budgets in place in order to provide for the proper care of patients.

It also appeared from Adv. Vorster’s examination that Jacobus, as Deputy Director in charge of NGO’s, was more concerned about the contracts for the provision of linen than the patients themselves.

It appeared from the cross examination of Jacobus that she was aware of the fact that at at least one of the NGO’s there were no registered doctors or nurses. Jacobus also testified that she had done nothing to correct the staff shortages of which she was aware at the NGO’s, because, according to her, she did not go to these facilities to do inspections, but to provide assistance with “challenging” patients. Jacobus also testified that she could not take responsibility for the condition in which the patients found themselves and, in answer to a question by Adv. Vorster, testified that she does not know who should’ve taken responsibility. This despite the fact that she was in charge of the contracts with the NGO’s to which patients were relocated.

“It has already been five years since government has failed these vulnerable people. However, there has been no prosecution, and it seems from the testimony in this inquest that no-one is prepared to accept responsibility for this total lack of respect for human dignity and life. AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit will continue to participate in this inquest to ensure that those who neglected their duties, which eventually led to the death of 144 people, will finally be held accountable in a court of law,” says Wico Swanepoel, prosecutor at AfriForum.

  • The Gauteng Department of Health in 2016 moved 144 psychiatric patients from Life Esidimeni to various non-governmental organisations in order to, amongst other things, save money. This despite evidence that various facilities were unfit for human occupation, as well as warnings by experts that the patients should not be moved.
  • Solidarity Helping Hand and AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit are currently supporting Sandra de Villiers in the judicial inquest into the death of her brother, Jaco Stols, in 2016 during the Life Esidimeni tragedy. Adv. Vorster and Wico Swanepoel, prosecutor at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, has been appointed by Helping Hand as a watching brief to represent De Villiers during the inquest.

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