Retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke has seen many things as a lawyer and as a political activist – and he is a man who seldom shows emotions. But yesterday, during the hearings into the Life Esidimeni tragedy, he could not contain himself.
After listening to former Gauteng director of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela duck and dive her way through questions about her sending vulnerable patients to unequipped non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (resulting in 143 of them dying); Moseneke said: “Maybe you didn’t care‚ you signed whatever you signed‚ you forget it was about people who had blood and flesh.”
Manamela denied that, as she denied it was her fault the patients were, effectively, abandoned by the government health system which is constitutionally mandated to care for just such suffering people.
Her testimony was the latest in a line of government officials bleating “it’s not my fault” when they are pressed to account for the ugly things which happened on their watch.
It would be as well to remind Manamela of the Hippocratic Oath which, presumably, she took on qualifying as a medical practitioner.
There is a section in that oath which states: “I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.”
Sadly, the Esidimeni outrage is merely one symptom of the sickness in our country, and which afflicts many civil servants, that people perceived to be “low” on life’s ladder do not deserve the respect, dignity or service accorded to those better off.
So, the poor, the orphans, the sick, the elderly, women… all are routinely abused by our government systems. All of us – not just those who work for government – have to start caring again.