Fifty-nine patients who were discharged from Life Esidimeni are still unaccounted for, while seven patients who died have not been identified and their families have not been traced

This is according to Dr Malebone Precious Matsoso, the director general of the National Health Department, who was testifying at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing on Thursday morning.

The hearing was set up after at least 118 mentally ill patients died after being transferred from Life Esidimeni to 27 other NGOs.

Matsoso told the hearing on Thursday that the government had set up a task team to help trace and identify patients, but they were unable to trace 59 patients whose Sassa grants were still being withdrawn every month.

To the gasps of some family members in the audience, Matsoso also said there were seven patients who had died who haven’t been identified yet and whose families must still be traced.

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An emotional Matsoso said: ”I want to apologise for the failures… something like this should never have happened.”

Arbitration hearing chair, former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke responded: ”Thank you for the apology. We do need a responsive government, we need a caring government… These responses have been heartening.

”Wrongs ought to be corrected. Those who hold power should be able to respond to those who don’t hold power,” he said.

Her testimony continues.