Northern Cape Violates Mental Health Care Act

Karen de Kock, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Provincial Spokesperson of Health

The Democratic Alliance is pleased that the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is considering initiating subpoena proceedings against the Northern Cape MEC for Health, Mxolisa Sokatsha, should he fail to respond to a final notice regarding the department’s response to violations of the Mental Health Care Act 17/2002.

In September 2010, the DA reported to the SAHRC that at the time, there were approximately 21 state patients in Kimberley’s Correctional Services facilities, some of whom had been kept in prison for a number of years without having been found guilty of a crime simply because the health department has nowhere else to put them. This serious issue has again made the headlines, following the improper detention of a mentally ill patient, Isak Coetzee, who has been kept in prison for four years due to a shortage of beds at the West End Hospital. The West end Hospital is the only facility in the entire province equipped to accommodate state patients.

Following further investigations by the HRC and their escalation of this serious issue to a national level, the DA received notification on the 3rd September 2012 that “The SAHRC submits to the office of the MEC a final notice with regard to the submission of their response as to your complaint, where after we would consider initiating subpoena proceedings against him should they fail to respond.” The DA has full confidence that the SAHRC will pursue the inhumane treatment of state patients up until it has been resolved.

No person can be condemned to prison if his or her mental capability remains questionable and such a person cannot stand trial. Any form of deprivation of such accorded rights constitutes a gross violation of human rights, as the Bill of Rights decrees that even the rights of those who cannot account for own deeds on the grounds of psychological disturbances, namely “state patients”, are protected.

In light of the seriousness of this situation, the DA will continue to lobby for the rights of state patients. We also eagerly anticipate the outcome of the SAHRC investigation.

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