The mystery about eight Life Esidimeni patients who are missing continues to be of concern as the Gauteng Health Department still cannot trace them.
According to a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature, there are no files for four of the eight missing patients.
The Department has made extensive efforts to find the patients, including checks with Home Affairs and SASSA to see if they had applied for IDs or received a disability grant. In some cases there are no ID numbers or dates of birth.
Missing person cases have been opened with the South African Police Service, and the Department is continuously checking for the patients in all facilities in case new information emerges.
Mokgethi says that search efforts are continuing but “it is difficult and time consuming to trace patients if information of the patients is not provided or available.” Furthermore, the telephone numbers of family members and home addresses provided are incorrect.
It is nearly five years since the transfers of patients from Life Esidimeni to illegal NGOs in June 2016, so it is unlikely that any of the missing patients are still alive.
The terrible possibility is that some of the missing patients died at the NGOs, but we will never know as their bodies may have been secretly disposed of.
There have been 144 confirmed deaths, but the true Esidimeni death toll should probably include the eight patients whose fate is currently unknown.