Authors: Siyambonga Heleba
South Africa has just mourned the deaths of over 100 psychiatric patients who were transferred from relatively safe and comfortable conditions of Life Esidimeni, a private healthcare provider, to unlicensed and ill-equipped Nongovernmental Organisations (NGOs). The decision to move these patients was solely taken by the Minister of Health of the Gauteng province to cut the costs of looking after these patients. The Minister has since stepped down over the tragedy. This paper highlights the significance of the citizens’ participation in public decision-making, especially in those decisions that directly affect them. This paper makes the simple argument that had there been meaningful consultation with the families of the patients, who in all probability would have objected to the decision to move their loved ones to ill-equipped NGOs, the whole tragedy would have been averted. This conclusion demonstrates the intersection between socio-economic rights and civil and political rights in general, and between the right to health and citizens’ right to participate in public decision-making in particular. The discussion will thus be located in the broader contest between democracy (citizen participation in governance) and human rights (the right to healthcare).
Keywords: intersection – citizen participation – right to health – public decision making