IN the annual search for a silver bullet solution to the Middle East problem, activists are rushed into reductionist conclusions. In the process open intellectual inquiry, debate and analysis about the conflict closes down. The resulting dogma and political correctness undermines the struggle for human rights.
In a recent piece, published by IOL, correspondent Azad Essa claims: “Not everyone agrees with the Israeli apartheid terminology, despite its rising legitimacy among many academics and scholars in the field. As a contentious analogy, the UN had never – until last week – officially called it apartheid.”
The statement by Essa is only partially true, since in 1975 the UN did in fact issue a resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism. However after the end of the Cold War, the same UN general assembly issued a resolution 46/86, (adopted on 16 December 1991), reversing its earlier resolution. Thus in 1991 “the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly … to revoke the bitterly contested statement it approved in 1975 that said: “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.””
“The official count found 111 nations in favor of repealing the statement and 25 nations, mostly Islamic and hard-line Communists, voting against. Thirteen nations abstained. Seventeen other countries, including Egypt, which recognizes Israel, and Kuwait and China, did not take part in the voting.”
That news-hounds can’t be bothered to do their homework, verifying the facts, can be seen by the persistent belief amongst many activists that resolution 3379 is still in force. A 2015 piece by Ben Norton of Mondoweiss, for example, a news outlet exposed as a purveyor of ‘alternative facts’, (i.e. facts which are not true), proceeded to ignore the revocation, and myopically accuses both the United States and Israel of wanting to rewrite history of a resolution which in any event, is null and void.
Until last week, the equation of Israel’s existence with ‘racism and racial domination’, was considered a foregone conclusion, an emerging fact of international law. This week, things were no longer so certain. The problem arose when a controversial report by a UN agency, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) equating Zionism with apartheid, and touted by IOL as definitive of the problem, was suddenly shelved, albeit from intense political pressure.
Rima Khalaf, the executive secretary of the United Nations agency which had released the report, accusing Israel of implementing “an apartheid regime,” was thus moved to resign from her post on Friday, while editors who had treated the announcement by the press agency Reuters as a sure sign of truth from on high, suddenly appeared to have egg on their faces.
It turned out that none other than U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had requested Khalaf to withdraw the report. Guterres through a spokesperson, said that the report, released by ESCWA, “does not reflect the views of the secretary-general” and it was thus published without consultation with the UN secretariat, nor it seems, the UN leader. It was an awkward and embarrassing defeat for the Palestinian lobby.
Palestine as an entity, itself does not have full status at the UN and only gained Non-Member Observer State’ Status in 2012. It is not the purpose of this piece to argue the merits of the UN secretary-general’s decision, nor whether or not Palestine should be accorded full status as a member state, nor consequently whether Israel should even exist — ( nor whether or not both parties, should be superseded by a binational state incorporating Palestinians and Israeli’s under a common constitution). So far as this writer is concerned, oppression in any form, whether state-sponsored, or on an individual basis should end. How we got here and how we arrive there is unfortunately not up to us individuals to decide, but rather a matter for all the parties to the conflict.
The question immediately raised at the outset, is whether the misapplication of law, the equation of our country’s experience in apartheid, with what is happening in the conflict, is absolutely necessary and helpful? That the use of the ‘apartheid analogy’ (and thus a phrase gradually being stripped of any meaning ) was turning out to be merely that, ‘an analogy’ — useful in some respects for political analysis, but awkward as a method of general application impacting on strategy – surely necessitates a return to the drawing board for all activists, even if this means conducting new research?
To find out why this eventuality, presents a serious predicament, the ESCWA report débâcle risks providing a blank cheque to those in office, to once again do nothing about the problem, one has merely to read the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (hereinafter Apartheid Convention), which had it roots in the opposition of the United Nations to the discriminatory racial policies of the South African Government – known as apartheid.
For many years Apartheid, was annually condemned by the General Assembly ‘as contrary to the Charter of the United Nations ; and was regularly condemned by the Security Council.’ In 1966, the General Assembly labelled apartheid a crime against humanity1 and in 1984 the Security Council endorsed this determination 2. The Apartheid Convention was thus considered the ultimate step in international condemnation of the system, ‘as it not only declared that apartheid was unlawful because it violated the Charter of the United Nations, but in addition it declared apartheid to be criminal.’
However, when the Apartheid Convention was drafted, like today, there was a division of opinion over the exact scope of the Convention. According to the UN human rights high commission, ‘most delegates saw the Convention as an instrument to be employed only against South Africa. Others, however, warned that the Convention was wide enough to cover other States that practised racial discrimination’ 3.
At the face of it, the Apartheid Convention declares that apartheid is a crime against humanity and that “inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination” are international crimes. Article 2 of the Convention defines the crime of apartheid –“which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa” – as covering “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them”. (my underlining)
It then lists those acts that fall within the ambit of the crime. These include ‘murder, torture, inhuman treatment and arbitrary arrest of members of a racial group; deliberate imposition on a racial group of living conditions calculated to cause its physical destruction; legislative measures that discriminate in the political, social, economic and cultural fields; measures that divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate residential areas for racial groups; the prohibition of interracial marriages; and the persecution of persons opposed to apartheid.’ (my underlining)
Despite its UN pedigree, no one was ever prosecuted for the crime of apartheid under the apartheid convention, while apartheid lasted in South Africa. And no one has ever since been prosecuted for this crime. The ongoing difficulty in attaining justice for the victims and survivors of the apartheid system, points to the dilemma faced by anybody wishing to simply legislate away the many problems faced. In any event, if one was to merely rely on the Apartheid Convention and its allied legislation, for guidance, one would surely miss out on the greater lessons in strategy to be learnt, that of peaceful conflict resolution via dialogue, and restorative justice between all the parties? Dialogue which inevitably leads to compromise positions on both sides, and which are assuredly necessary in the Middle East of today?
“The weight of the evidence supports beyond a reasonable doubt the proposition that Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people, which amounts to the commission of a crime against humanity,” wrote ESCWA in the controversial report it released on March 15
Aside from being an indictment of the status quo, the ESCWA report itself has serious flaws in defining its subject matter. There are far better analytical and intellectual tools available than the use of open analogy instead of first principles. One has merely to locate the very, real experience of hegemony and oppression within the conflict to see why this is so.
Again, analysis of the problematic issue of the existence of the state of Israel, is not the purpose of this piece. Rather, as a person affected by legal definitions based upon discredited race science, one has got to take issue with the reiteration of race science by any report, UN sponsored or otherwise, especially one which argues that in the geopolitical context of Palestine, “Jews and Palestinians can be considered “racial groups”.”
One would not expect that the controversial ESCWA report, touted by activists, should perversely resort to a form of racist dogma of its own, considered anathema in modern South Africa itself? An inversion of the Apartheid Convention, in which race categories are imposed, instead of described according to phenomena on the ground, presumably as an intellectual means to solve the problem? Consider the purported facts, may or may not even be true, but rather, as one critic would have it, the result of ‘a shibboleth of race’, an untrue statement about race resulting from an Anti-Semitic canard’, a thesis which if misapplied, undermines the entire struggle for human rights in the Middle East, along with the peace process?
What is certainly obnoxious and objectionable here, aside from the imposition of apartheid-like race categorisation in grouping persons according to race, is the delineation of race science, albeit via an unproven hypothesis — the authors insistence, as did Adolf Hitler and German eugenicists — that all Jews comprise a distinct race (or are all Israelis now a race?), and hence the necessity to also attribute a race to Palestinians.
The failure to provide any empirical evidence in support of such assertions, aside from a description of abusive power relations, places the report in the terrain of public opinion instead of fact. Are we now expected to simply believe in the apartheid analogy for whatever reason, perhaps on faith alone? As the troublesome founder of modern Israel, Theodor Herzl attempted to point out, “No nation has uniformity of race” — “My associates and I make no distinctions between one man and another. We do not ask to what race or religion a man belongs. If he is a man, that is enough for us.”
It is thus better to remind those parties to the conflict that even the founder of Israel would have disagreed with what is taking place in Israel today. It is therefore important that we state in conclusion: Nations are not races, and people should be free to practice their religion, whatever the national circumstance or geographical location. One can only hope for an end to hegemony and oppression on both sides, and for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The problem of legal exclusion
According to the ESCWA: “Although the term “apartheid” was originally associated with the specific instance of South Africa, it now represents a species of crime against humanity under customary international law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, according to which: “The crime of apartheid” means inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
If readers wish to read the actual Rome Statute it also contains words such as “context” and ‘racial group’. The problem arises when the report dodges its own definitions, in cherry picking from statutes, by stating:
“This report accepts the definition of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of “racial discrimination” as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.
In adopting this definition, the same report falls into absurdity by failing to cite the very exclusions of the statutes to which it relies upon:
“This Convention shall not apply to distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences made by a State Party to this Convention between citizens and non-citizens.”
Why this would be problematic, can be seen in the simple case of nation-statism. Every nation-state discriminates on the basis of nationality. Thus in leaving the report open to the logic of other statutes, a serious flaw is introduced. Arguably, this exception is exactly what the authors of the apartheid bantustans wished to exploit, and what the Israeli government, itself arguably a UN-sponsored bantustan for Jews, has consistently exploited, in approaching the primary problem with regard to the de jure denationalisation of persons considered undesirable by the regime.
As a hostage to the conflict being waged by conservatives on either side, I wish to once again place on record my objections to the war in the Middle East. In particular the internecine, sectarian conflict involving members of various faith groups, who refuse to recognise the rights of secularists such as myself.
The conflict is clearly a long-standing, religious-based conflict involving the deployment of displacement theology by either side, in the battle over identity and the status of Jerusalem, a city regarded as holy by many religions.
I also wish to reiterate my objections to the separation barrier and my rejection of the so-called ‘right of return’ on the basis of my Jewish ancestry, placed on record shortly after the wall was built in 2000, and published prominently in the Israeli media.
As a secular humanistic Jew and subscriber to the principles of the Society for Secular Humanistic Judaism, Jewish identity is best preserved in a free, pluralistic environment. The freedom and dignity of the Jewish people must go hand in hand with the freedom and dignity of every human being.
As a struggle veteran and war resister, I also wish to remind my fellow South Africans of my objections to the rationalisations of members of the IDF, in a combined ECC-IDF platform on UCT campus during 1987, and also the continued dispute involving my Jewish identity recorded in the decision of a South African court, and involving offensive race testing.
Apartheid, and its sequel in the new South Africa, should never be used as the justification for domination by one group over another, nor should its motivations be forgotten. Dialogue and compromise by all sides, is the only way forward. As objectors on both sides have shown, another reality is possible.
Let peace prevail on earth.
[Letter remains unpublished due to vendetta by SANEF]
THAT people like Ivo Vegter get given column space on the strength of an untested book purporting to debunk campaigns against fracking, nuclear power, climate change and environmentalism in general, is a sign of the insatiable rise of right-wing politics, of the kind that has lead to the ascendency of President Donald Trump. In Vegter’s latest missive published by Daily Maverick, the columnist makes the bold claim that “Rich environmentalists oppress poor people.”
In order to support his thesis, he refers to campaigns to save the Sumatran Tiger and rainforest habitat in Indonesia, the battle to counter deforestation, and a supposedly “alarmist film” by one Leonardo de Caprio, whom Vegter labels variously, a “climate change hypocrite” and a rich celebrity with a ‘carbon footprint the size of small countries’ who has merely ‘poked his nose into the fight’.
De Caprio’s film Before the Flood about climate change and presented by National Geographic was an official selection at both the Toronto and London Film festivals. In comparison Vegter’s 2012 book “Extreme Environment: How Environmental Exaggeration Harms Emerging Economies” failed to make any notable book lists and hardly ranks in terms of global sales.
Vegter’s writing has been labelled as “staggeringly naïve and shoddy research“, “elastic research“,” a man who passes himself off as an environmental journalist, but consistently backs the right of those with money and power to destroy the environment” and a “cherry-picker of facts“.
After poo-pooing De Caprio’s fact-finding epic, Vegter turns to geothermal energy, making the point that instead of being seen as a good thing by environmentalists, such projects, particularly in Indonesia, have raised the ire of earth-centric activists wanting to save habitat from human intervention. David Attenborough is thus chief on Vegters hit-list, as any deep green ecologist would be — one who places a higher value on ecosystems than human beings in general and who is thus opposed to our supposed God-given right to destroy nature.
Hence what can only be termed a rather limp but convoluted preface, tame in comparison to earlier postings, (the man’s writing has spawned a veritable cottage industry of conspiracy theory), begins Vegter’s perennial opining on the subject:
“Environmentalists often try to appeal to our common-sense instincts to preserve our world from harm. Nobody would dispute that a healthy, productive environment is desirable, and indeed essential for continued human welfare and prosperity.
“However, in their zeal to oppose environmental degradation, environmentalists routinely overstate their case. When infrastructure or other development projects are proposed, their knee-jerk reaction is to object, and never give ground. Instead of seeking to minimise harm, they insist that no environmental price is worth the benefit of development.
“There are strong incentives for environmentalists to become fundamentalist extremists, who brook no human development that might disturb a supposedly pristine environment. To understand why, allow me to propose four possible motivations: environmentalism as a religion, environmentalism as a political tool, environmentalism as sensationalism, and environmentalism as an industry.”
That Vegter willfully misstates the case, is unable to tackle apartheid and related environmental issues in his own backyard, and thus resorts to cherry-picking issues half-way around the world, issues that readers do not have any immediate interest in the outcome of events, save from what they see on their Nature television screens, is par for the course, for a man who lost the debate on Fracking and Fukushima. Vegter painfully misjudged the geology of the Karoo, made spurious claims without any science about Fukushima, supported Big Oil at the expense of Water, and continues to disregard the environmental struggles of millions of South Africans living in the townships.
His characterisation of environmentalists as nothing less than ‘wealthy oppressors’, must be rejected as insulting and offensive to all activists on the ground struggling for a healthy environment and better conditions for all humans living on the Earth. This week, saw a major climate victory for Earthlife Africa, an organisation with a predominantly black membership, and thus an organisation which carries my DNA, and notably, one to which I contributed its founding charter and principles. Part of the story of the rise of ELA and environmental activism during apartheid can be read here.
While there is no dispute regarding the need for criticism — yes, white conservationists were considered fair game during the dark days of apartheid, and I published profusely on the subject, forcing the Wildlife Society to become the Wildlife and Environment Society — and since as I argued, human beings were intimately part of the habitat, thus saving our climate and ending apartheid, was equally important, both for wildlife and all human beings, especially those who lacked clean water and basic sanitation — Vegter goes too far in his own extreme, and one should add, obnoxious alt-right point of view.
The convoluted dispatch from the self-proclaimed “never wrong” pundit (read: Never right), may also be considered a form of back-peddling, for in admitting the need for some form of environmentalism in geothermal energy, and thus in part a recognition of the energy debate central to climate change, and ergo, a part revision of an objectionable thesis, Vegter’s borrowed critique of shallow environmentalism, not all environmentalism per se, is in reality, an attempt to destroy the environmental movement by incorporating some of its own ideology and criticism.
Thus like the Rupert’s who wish to be seen as pioneers of transfrontier parks, without dealing with their contribution to apartheid, Vegter’s sudden sympathy for the poor, in essence greenwashing, cannot masque an otherwise abysmal career as a proponent of resource exploitation. Such nitpicking is unlikely to bother the strong non-racial green movement which has arisen post-COP17, nor will it remove the guarantees of Earth Rights in our constitution, and the campaign for the inclusion of ecological sustainable development, of which I was one of the authors.
Vegter’s latest views, therefore need to be discarded as nothing less than fallacious and false argument, the utterings of a dyed in the wool racist, and the work of an opponent of science. One has merely to review the latest debates around the Anthropocene, and certainly, my view is that we appear to be at the end of this geological era. Far from being “monopolisers of truth” environmentalists, are deploying science – evidence-based research and empirical data in their campaign to avoid the devastating consequences of climate change. Ivo the Terrible, on the other hand, appears to offer nothing more than a theological counter-point, providing a hazardous litany of argument — one of many, self-ordained saints of alt-speak making a quick buck out of roasting the green movement.
When it comes to freedom of expression there is a need for South Africans to protect our gains and broaden the right to even more people. In order to move forward, we have to take on the challenges of the present and learn the lessons from our past. As part of our human rights focus for March, we look at the case of the Grassroots community newspaper which came into being at a time when apartheid was at its most vicious.
The offices of a community newspaper were burned to the ground in October 1985. It was situated opposite the Grand Parade and next to Cape Town’s historic City Hall. A few weeks earlier three of the newspaper’s employees were taken into detention by apartheid security police who swooped on their homes in the dead of night, armed to the teeth. Several other staff members went into hiding, moving around in disguise, some shedding their beards and moustaches, others donning scarves and wearing Gandhi-like spectacles.
In the time ahead, the paper was banned in terms of emergency regulations. Police conducted several raids on the premises of Grassroots’ printer Esquire Press, and in the late 80s one of the staff members was shot and left for dead near a cemetery in Gugulethu. Fortunately – and almost miraculously – she survived the attempt to end her life.
In many parts of the City and indeed, throughout the land, protests, teargas and funerals were as much part of daily life as having a haircut or taking the kids to school. The rebellion against that monstrous crime against humanity – apartheid, was growing with each passing day. The apartheid state unleashed unspeakable violence on the black oppressed and white democrats – arresting, hurting, maiming and killing those who dared to take a stand, and even those who did not.
Just over 25 years on, these recollections of the Grassroots Community Newspaper experience, seem strangely surreal, even to those who were there when it all happened.
The idea of Grassroots, which operated from 1980 to 1990, was conceptualised in the late 70s by progressive journalists in the Writers Association of South Africa. It was further brainstormed with activists in the Cape, most coming from the fold of the Congress Movement – the ANC and its allies.
The mission was to add a newspaper to the armoury of the resistance movement in South Africa with the overall aim of bringing apartheid to an end and replacing it with a democratic government and society. For obvious security reasons these aims were not documented – or publicly stated – but were well understood by those who drove this mission and the thousands who participated in its operation.
The activists drew inspiration from Durban dock workers strike of 1973, Mozambique gaining independence from Portuguese colonial rule in 1975 and the nationwide 1976 uprising which began in Naledi, Soweto.
Activists argued that strong, enduring community organisations, built from the ground up, would make it almost impossible for the Apartheid State to crush resistance in the way that they did in the 60s and – to a lesser extent – after the 1976 rebellion.
Grassroots established itself in an office off Greenmarket Square with the veteran activist Johnny Issel heading up a small staff component. The paper was to be tabloid size, with some 12 to 16 pages and would appear monthly.
The real driving force behind this project was hundreds of community activists who had been drawn into the unfolding struggle in the late 70s and early 80s. They participated in newsgathering meetings, distributed the paper door-to-door across the Cape Flats, helped produce content for the paper and represented their organisations and communities at Grassroots forums that including quarterly General Meetings and AGMs. Many of these activists were referred to as charterists, those whose political programme was encapsulated in the Freedom Charter which was adopted in Kliptown in 1955.
A small number of journalists in the mainstream papers, mainly black, contributed to the Grassroots effort. Eager to support the struggle against apartheid and angry at the racism practised in newsrooms themselves – both Afrikaner nationalist and English liberal – they assisted with skills development and writing and editing. The Journalists and the growing anti-apartheid activist fraternity all shared the view that the mainstream media – apart from its job reservation practices – almost exclusively gave voice to an enfranchised minority. This was then part of the motivation for the development of alternative media platforms.
Issel was banned and Leila Patel took over as co-ordinator for two years until student leader Saleem Badat stepped into the hot seat between 1983 and 1986. By the mid-80s Grassroots consisted of the newspaper, a student publication Learning Roots, a political magazine, New Era and a media education project. A rural project was established with Saamstaan newspaper in Oudtshoorn as the flagship and a range of skills training initiatives across the province.
There were passionate debates during this time about the content of Grassroots, advertising policy, democratic practices in a newspaper project and importantly, how to deal with state repression.
The notion of Grassroots as a “collective organiser” featured strongly in the philosophical outlook of key players in the project. The paper had to do more than just inform and entertain – it had a critical role to play in bringing activists together around common goals, inspiring the formation and growth of local organisations and educating communities about their rights. This vision took Grassroots into rural towns and villages and eventually culminated in the launch of Saamstaan in 1984. That is a story on its own which was told in a 24 minute SABC documentary three years ago.
At its height Grassroots attracted 40 to 50 representatives from civic organisations, trade unions, student bodies and religious groups to its weekly news gathering meetings and hundreds from right across the Cape would gather for the Annual General Meeting. Activists would gather in large numbers in selected communities and, armed with copies of Grassroots, would encourage residents to be active in their local civics, bolster the trade union movement and make a contribution to student campaigns.
Far from being a conventional newspaper, Grassroots developed into something of a movement, bringing together people from across the social and geographic spectrum under one umbrella. It certainly prepared the ground for the formation of the United Democratic Front in 1983, since the UDF united a broad cross-section of organisational formations, but on a much bigger scale.
The paper’s content focused largely on local issues – electricity and maintenance campaigns, rates and rental tariffs. It was not the content of the paper that was a threat to state security, but rather what the project represented in its entirety. It had become a powerful mobilising tool and was helping to build people’s power from grassroots level. In the second half of the eighties, though, the paper did begin taking on more of a political character, as the struggle against apartheid intensified.
The paper was largely funded by a Church group in Holland, committed to the fight against apartheid. Grassroots was sold for nominal amounts and so income from sales was insignificant. The advertising revenue was limited since only a handful of small businesses on the Cape Flats advertised in the paper. Big businesses, which largely sided with and benefited from apartheid, were certainly not going to pour its resources into an anti-apartheid community paper.
Though the paper was relatively small, its impact was massive. Countless activists have spoken of Grassroots’ inspirational effect on their morale, since they viewed the project as quite an act of defiance against a seemingly monolithic and powerful State. Significantly, a large number of activists acquired media skills through their involvement in Grassroots and Saamstaan and they today occupy important positions in both mainstream and civil society communication sectors.
Grassroots closed its doors in 1990, the same year that negotiations to establish a democratic South Africa began. For a few years before that, participation had already begun to wane, partly due to repression, but also as result of activists devoting most of their energy to the work of the United Democratic Front.
Debates still occur over the decision to close Grassroots. It is argued that alternative community media platforms are of critical importance, to advance Constitutional ideals and rights and protect our democratic gains as well as to counter the lack of balance and diversity in the mainstream press.
These debates will rage intermittently for many years to come and may lead to new realisations and initiatives in time to come. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: Grassroots inspired and empowered a legion of activists and community members at a particularly turbulent time in our country. Its place in our media and political history is assured.
This story first appeared on The Journalist.
Upon the investigation, the Ombud has established that:
- A total of ninety-four (94+) and not thirty-six (36) mentally ill patients (as initially and commonly reported publicly in the media) died between 23 March 2016 and 19 December 2016 in Gauteng Province. This total number of 94 should be seen as a working and provisional number.
- All the 27 NGOs to which patients were transferred operated under invalid licences; therefore, all patients who died in these NGOs died in unlawful circumstances
- The NGOs where the majority of patients died had neither the basic competence and experience, the leadership/managerial capacity nor ‘fitness for purpose’ and were often poorly resourced. The existent unsuitable conditions and competence in some of these NGOs precipitated and are closely linked to the observed ‘higher or excess’ deaths of the mentally ill patients.
- 75 (79.78%) patients died from 5 NGO/hospital complexes (Precious Angels 20, Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre (CCRC)/ Siyabadinga/Anchor 25, Mosego/Takalani 15, Tshepong 10 and Hephzibah 5);
- There were 11 NGOs with no deaths, 8 NGOs with average deaths and 8 NGOs with ‘higher or excess’ death;
- Only 4 Mental Health Care Users (MCHUs) died in hospitals compared to 77 MCHUs deaths at NGOs; in absolute numbers for every 1 death at the hospitals there were 19 deaths at the NGOs but correcting for the total base population the ratio is 1:7. This ratio is very high.
- When the MEC of Health made announcement on 13 September 2016, 77 patients had already lost their lives.
- At the time of writing the Report, 94 patients had died in 16 out of 27 NGOs and 3 hospitals.
- 95.1% deaths occurred in the NGOs from those directly transferred from LE Health Care Centre.
- Available evidence by the Expert Panel and the Ombud showed that a ‘high-level decision’ to terminate the LE Health Care Centrecontract precipitously was taken, followed by a ‘programme of action’ with disastrous outcomes/consequences including the deaths of Assisted MCHUs. The Ombud identified three key players in the project: MEC QedaniDorothy Mahlangu, Head of Department (HoD),Dr. Tiego Ephraim Selebano and Director Dr. Makgabo Manamela at times referred to as ‘dramatis personae’ in the text. Their fingerprints are ‘peppered’ throughout the project. The decision was reckless, unwise and flawed, with inadequate planning and a chaotic and ‘rushed or hurried’ implementation process.
- Several factors in the ‘programme of action’ were identified by the (Expert Panel, OHSC Inspectors, Ombud and Ministerial Advisory Committee) that contributed and precipitated to the accelerated deaths of mentally ill patients at the NGOs. The transfer process particularly, was often described as ‘chaotic or a total shamble’;
- The Gauteng Mental Health Marathon Project, as it became known was: done in a ‘hurry/rush’; with ‘chaotic’ execution; in an environment with no developed, no tradition, no culture of primary mental health care community-based service framework and infrastructure;
Human Rights Violations.
There is prima facie evidence, that certain officials and certain NGOs and some activities within the Gauteng Marathon Project violated the Constitution and contravened, the National Health Act and the Mental Health Care Act (2002). Some executions and implementation of the project have shown a total disregard of the rights of the patients and their families, including but not limited to the Right to Human dignity; Right to life; Right to freedom and security of person; Right to privacy, Right to protection from an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, Right to access to quality health care services, sufficient food and water and Right to an administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.
The Ombud established that the following decisions/actions were negligent or reckless by the Department of Health:
- Overcrowded NGOs which are more restrictive, is contrary to the deinstitutionalization policy of the MHCA and MH Strategy and Policy.
- Transfer of patients to far-away places from their communities, is contrary to the policy of deinstitutionalization.
- Transfer of patients to NGOs that were ‘not ready’, that were ‘not prepared properly for the task’.
- Transfer of patients without the provision of structured community mental health care services is contrary to the Mental Health policy.
- NGOs without qualified staff and skills to care for the special requirements of the patients.
- NGOs without appropriate infrastructure and not adequately financially resourced.
- NGOs without safety and security.
- NGOs without proper heating during winter, some were described as ‘cold’.
- NGOs without food and water, where patients became emaciated and some died of ‘dehydration’.
- Grant and sign licences without legal or delegated authority.
KHULUMANI reports that our Parliament is on track to ‘review and possibly repeal more than 1,800 apartheid-era laws.’
‘In 2016, the programming committee of the National Assembly mandated Parliament’s legal services with identifying all apartheid-era laws or sections in legislation, that could be inconsistent with the Constitution.’
‘Parliament’s legal advisers submitted their report to the committee on Thursday. It identifies 1,850 pieces of legislation passed between 1910 and 1993.”
“Parliament’s legal services will now begin identifying the departments under which each of the laws falls for input and processing.”