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Emaciated, mutilated, dead: the mental health scandal that rocked South Africa | The Guardian

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Emaciated, mutilated, dead: the mental health scandal that rocked South Africa | The Guardian When 1,700 vulnerable and mentally ill people were moved from specialised care facilities to unlicensed organisations in a bid to save money, nearly one in 10 died

Mental Health, South African Mental Health, South African Healthcare, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN, KINDR'D Magazine, KINDR'D, Willoughby Avenue



In September 2016, Phumzile Motshegwa received a call from an unknown number. The woman on the end of the line said Motshegwa’s brother, Solly, was dead. His body was at a funeral parlour in Atteridgeville, a township in South Africa. Did she want to go and collect him? The address she gave was a disused butcher’s shop. When Motshegwa arrived, a man hosing down blood-stained floors handed her a pair of rubber gloves.

“Do you know your brother?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered.

“Choose your brother, then.”

Motshegwa put on the gloves. Before her stood metal tables stacked high with decomposing corpses. “I counted 36 bodies,” she says. “I was shifting all these ladies and guys around until I saw Solly. I saw his head, I saw his scar, so I said, ‘This is my brother.’”

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Solly had lived in hospital since a 1989 machete attack during political clashes left him brain damaged. He had been happy and healthy, and recently celebrated his 54th birthday. Now his body lay in front of her, emaciated and mutilated.


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