Life Esidimeni inquest stalls again
Matter postponed again because some lawyers did not have proper access to case documents and others had not yet consulted witnesses
The inquest into the Life Esidimeni tragedy has again come to a grinding halt in the Pretoria high court — this time for a month.
The hearing, intended to determine what led to the deaths of 144 psychiatric patients and make recommendations on who should be held accountable and whether criminal prosecutions are warranted, will continue on August 30.
Despite months of preparations and planning, the hearing has been unable to proceed smoothly due to complications with legal representation and conflicts of interest. Now the matter has again been postponed because some lawyers did not have proper access to case documents and others had not yet consulted their witnesses.
“We will adjourn now and resume on Monday August 30 ... I trust that by then everyone will have had time to read all the documents and consult their witnesses and there will no excuses,” said presiding judge Mmonoa Teffo.
The inquest is set to hear witnesses testify about how, in 2016, the Gauteng health department terminated its contract with Life Esidimeni for the full-time care of 1,300 psychiatric patients. They were removed from Life Esidimeni hospitals and either released into the care of their families or dropped off with unregistered NGOs set up to take care of the patients.
The move led to the deaths of 144 patients — many of them having starved or frozen to death.