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. Phyllis Vorster, Prosecutor at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, has been appointed by Helping Hand as a watching brief to represent De Villiers during the inquest.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) requested the judicial inquest to determine the following: The identity of the deceased; cause and date of death; and whether the death was brought about by any act amounting to an offence on the part of any person.

“The answers to all these questions are apparent and it is regrettable that the NPA after five years have not prosecuted a single government official for the death of the 144 psychiatric patients who died in horrible circumstances. The state in this case not only failed to protect some of the most vulnerable members of society, but it seems that government officials actively played a role in the death of the patients by moving them to facilities that allegedly did not have the necessary infrastructure to adequately care for them,” says Adv. Gerrie Nel, Head of AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.

The Gauteng Department of Health in 2016 moved about 1 400 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.

Stols allegedly starved to death in the facility to which he was moved. He was only – at the insistence of De Villiers – hospitalised when he already weighed 39 kg and it was too late to save him by that time. Government officials did not even obtain the necessary permission from his next of kin to move him, and De Villiers was initially also not allowed to visit him at the new facility.

“The Life Esidimeni tragedy is one of the worst violations of human rights that we have ever encountered. That is why Solidarity Helping Hand represented four families in the mediation hearings and is now supporting De Villiers during the inquest,” says René Roux, Deputy CEO of Solidarity Helping Hand.

Support Solidarity Helping Hand in this case: SMS “Justice” to 45763 (R2).

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