oa ESR Review : Economic and Social Rights in South Africa - Life Esidimeni : applying a Human Rights lens - feature

Volume 20 Number 3
  • ISSN : 1684-260X



The Life Esidimeni incident has been the subject of a great deal of discussion in the media and elsewhere – and rightly so. Tragedies such as these need to get as much attention as possible to prevent us from becoming indifferent to the suffering of the poor and keep us focused in our different fields on seeking ways to alleviate preventable suffering in the health system. Applying a human rights lens requires investigating deeply-held assumptions about why certain people end up suffering certain afflictions beyond the presenting issues (Yamin 2015). This calls for an understanding of the role that poverty, gender inequality, social and systemic exclusion, and political failure play in perpetuating human rights violations. Seen in this regard, the Life Esidimeni case presents a series of human rights violations at the heart of which were vulnerable and poorly resourced mental health-care users. The article describes each of the main rights that were violated; due to the interrelated nature of rights, infringing on these rights also violated other underlying rights, such as the right to food and water. The commentary in this article reflects on the arbitration hearings led by Justice Dikgang Moseneke and the judgment he delivered on 19 March 2018. It also draws on information from human rights organisations, such as Section 27, that have been advocating for the rights of mental health-care users.

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