Durban and Coastal Mental Health Home: MEC more worried about the DA than the exposure of abuse of vulnerable patients

Democratic Alliance media statement by Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health


Durban and Coastal Mental Health Home: MEC more worried about the DA than the exposure of abuse of vulnerable patients


The response by KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo following the sexual abuse of a patient at the Durban and Coastal Mental Health Home (DCMH) is a hysterical reaction by a MEC who is more worried about being exposed by the DA than the protection of vulnerable patients at this facility.

The flailing response by both the MEC and DCMH Director, Gita Harie, comes after a DA oversight inspection at the facility last week during which a rape was reported. The rape was later confirmed by a medical practitioner.

Rather than deal with the very serious and heinous matters at hand, the MEC and Mrs Harie have accused the DA of meddling – a stunning accusation given that the role of opposition parties is to conduct oversight of such facilities.

The DA is deeply disturbed by what appears to be some form of unholy alliance between the MEC and Mrs Harie, as evidenced by the clumsy attempt to escape accountability. Their scurrilous approach must not be allowed to deflect from the realities of the atrocities that have occurred on their watch.

The DCMH is a facility that has been operating for 77 years and reaches 80 000 beneficiaries. The home provides an essential service to its users. The DA has no desire to see this facility shut down but we will not stand by while patients are being abused and exploited.

The past few weeks have seen numerous allegations, the rapes being the worst. Other claims include nepotism, improper financial gain involving senior staff, serving stale and/or rotten or expired food to patients and worse still, physical assault of those who can’t defend themselves, allegedly by staff members. All of this must be tried before appropriate authorities.

The MEC and his Department have already shown that they do not care about the sick and vulnerable in KZN after having been found guilty by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) of violating the rights of cancer patients to access treatment. It is under MEC Dhlomo’s watch that more than 500 patients have died – and these are only the ones that we know of.

Meanwhile, Mrs Harie has accused the DA of sensationalising the issues at the DCMH by inviting the media to attend a briefing. It is important to note that proper protocol was followed in terms of our visit and that while we were there, the ANC also arrived at the Home and were also interviewed by the media. This without any prior arrangement. Following this, the MEC appeared on the scene the next day after the DA publicly called upon him to visit the facility. He did so with the media in tow. For Ms Harie to then cry foul is absolute hypocrisy.

It is clear that both the MEC and Ms Harie are more interested in protecting themselves rather than the interests of the patients at the DCMH. This will not benefit or protect the users of the facility and will ruin a 77 year old reputation. In the event that there is another rape, one more patient beaten or one more fed expired food, both must be held criminally accountable because their recent behaviour exhibits culpability rather than accountability.

The DA has long called for MEC Dhlomo to be fired on the basis that he has been proved to be the province’s chief human rights violator. We also believe that in the interests of ongoing future investigations Ms Harie should either be suspended or fired from this facility.

The MEC now has a duty to tell the people of KZN what steps he, his Department and Mrs Harie are taking to stop sexual abuse and other atrocities at this facility. He must not hide behind Commissions, Boards and enquiries and Ms Harie must not hide behind him.

Their attempts to side-track from the problems will not protect the people lodged at DCMH. Only solid action will. If they can’t provide this leadership, they must admit it or, better yet, both resign.

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