Sandra de Villiers, the sister of Jaco Stols, one of the 144 victims of the infamous Life Esidimeni-tragedy, today (28 February) during the formal inquest into the death of various patients testified that Stols vomited continuously for four weeks, which led to him dying of hunger and thirst at the age of 51. She also testified that there were inexplicable marks on his body and that reports indicated that he was crying himself to sleep at night without his caretakers reporting this to his loved-ones.
AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit and Solidarity Helping Hand represent De Villiers in this inquest. Advocate Phyllis Vorster, Prosecutor at the Private Prosecution Unit, has been appointed as a watching brief to assist De Villiers.
The suffering of Stols, an intellectually disabled man, has the brain capacity of a nine year old child, during the last few weeks of his life was today heard in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. The inquest court must determine the following: The identity of the deceased, the cause and date of death, and whether the death was caused by an action amounting to an offence by any person. De Villiers is the 14th witness that has been called to testify.
At times, she became emotional when she testified how her brother wasted away before her eyes since he had been transferred from the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC) to the new Siyabadinga-centre in Cullinan on 9 May 2016 as part of the Life Esidimeni money saving scheme. She testified how her brother was so hungry and thirsty during one of her visits that he drank a litre of cooldrink at once and that he ate his food so quickly that he almost swallowed the serviette as well. The court heard how Siyabadinga had to close its doors on 8 July 2016 since it was being operated without the necessary permits. Stols was therefore retransferred to CCRC on 19 July 2016.
From then on De Villiers, according to her testimony, witnessed how her brother had marks on his body and testified that Stols had said that “they” were hurting him. He also cried a lot. De Villiers reported these incidents to the necessary authority structures in vain in the hope that something would be done about it.
On 19 September 2016 De Villiers visited her brother again. “He was crying so much and said that ‘they’ were hurting him. He looked ill and I decided to take him to a private doctor in Rayton,” De Villiers testified.
Dr. Deon Lombaard (who will tomorrow also testify in the inquest) found that Stols was most probably being abused and suffered from dehydration and malnutrition. Dr. Lombaard prescribed medication and instructed CCRC to admit Stols to a hospital if his condition did not improve. However, according to De Villiers’s testimony, this never happened. After more visits, and at the insistence of De Villiers, Stols was finally admitted to the Mamelodi Hospital on 26 September 2016 when he weighed a mere 39 kilograms. However, he was only treated with an intravenous drip and sent back to the centre where his condition deteriorated further.
On 3 October 2016 CCRC readmitted Stols to the Mamelodi Hospital. His condition deteriorated rapidly and he died on 14 October 2016.
“We want justice. I felt that my brother’s life was not important to them at all, his life does not matter and he can just die. He was also just a human being, but they treated him like a dog. He was possibly also sexually abused,” De Villiers testified.
“The State and various other institutions failed Stols and De Villiers, and also all the other victims in this tragedy. It is disgraceful that defenceless people had to die allegedly at the hand of their caretakers. We cannot allow them to get away with this and will work together with AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit to ensure that justice prevails so that these families can find some solace,” says René Roux, Deputy CEO of Solidarity Helping Hand.
“It has already been five years since the government has failed these defenceless victims and De Villiers testified today that neither the NPA nor the Department of Health have ever consulted with her, despite the fact that she opened a criminal case with the police because of her brother’s death. Furthermore, it seems that no-one is prepared to accept responsibility for the inhumane cruelty that Stols and other patients had to endure. Nevertheless, AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit will, in collaboration with Solidarity Helping Hand, continue to partake in this inquest to ensure that those who neglected their duties and eventually caused the death of about 144 people, are held accountable,” says Wico Swanepoel, attorney at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.