Life Esidimeni Arbitration: Testimonies

Testimony – Rev. Joseph Maboe (Hendrik ‘Billy’ Maboe)

Rev. Joseph Maboe (80) testified that during the Marathon Project, his oldest child Billy had been transferred from Life Esidimeni to Bophelong, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in Hammanskraal. This had happened despite the Reverend’s explicit resistance through joining the association of concerned Family Residents of Life Esidimeni in 2015, as well as being a part of the legal proceedings against the Gauteng Department of Health.

In his 2015 affidavit, Rev. Maboe stated that Billy had not stabilised at any of four different hospitals until he went to Life Esidimeni, and asked that he not be moved from there. Rev. Maboe was not contacted when Billy was moved, or told to where he had been moved. Billy was only located after he called Rev. Maboe on his (Billy’s) birthday.

When the Reverend saw his son, he was “dehydrated; he was hungry; he was filthy; he was smelly”; Rev. Maboe could see “death in his (son’s) face”. One staff member said that they did not give him water, because they did not want him to wet himself. Billy was so hungry that he ate the plastic packet the chips brought by his father had come in. He was worryingly weak, and could only be taken to the Jubilee hospital two days later, during the week, because a doctor was not on hand to provide a permission note.

Billy died on 22 July 2016, six days after reuniting with his father. The cause of death was indicated to be the result of a lower respiratory tract infection, and therefore ‘natural’. This was not sufficient for his father, who felt that the Gauteng Department of Health had been complicit in his son’s death.

Testimony – Ntombifuthi Olga Dhladhla (Joseph Gumede)

Ntombifuthi Dhladhla (53) testified concerning the circumstances surrounding the untimely demise of her older brother, Joseph Gumede. When she went to visit him in April 2016, Ntombifuthi was shocked to find that Life Esidimeni was closed, as she had not received any communication to this effect. No-one could tell her the whereabouts of her brother.

After traversing different NGOs housing Life Esidimeni patients to no avail, and having engaged with the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) for months, she was finally told that they would contact her shortly. According to his death certificate, Joseph had died on 24 July 2016 at Cullinan Care & Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC) in Pretoria. His death was only communicated to his family on 10 February 2017, almost seven months afterwards, when Daphney Ndhlovu, a social worker from CCRC, visited Ntombifuthi to inform them – this despite the fact that CCRC had her details readily available.

Joseph’s body had been deposited at a State mortuary in Mamelodi for that time. Unfortunately, according to Ntombifuthi, the State mortuary was not in good working order, resulting in the decomposition of her brother’s body.

It was so badly decomposed, Ntombifuthi could hardly identify him. It smelled terribly, and his eyes were not in their sockets. To add insult to injury, the undertaker’s car – a minibus taxi – had no trailer in which to put the body. They had to put it across a seat, resulting in flies collecting around it whenever the vehicle stopped at a traffic light. The body was so decomposed, it had maggots spewing out of it, resulting in the undertaker saying that they could not bury him with clothes. His funeral clothes were subsequently placed next to him, and his body wrapped in a blanket.

For Ntombifuthi, her brother did not have dignity in life (post-Life Esidimeni), or in death. She states that moving her brother without essential documents such as his medical records was part of the reason he passed away.

 

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