Poem: 94+ and counting

who’s counting
lifeless bodies mounting
on frozen floors
absent doors
dignity stripped
hope whipped
freedom clipped

who’s counting
mute citizens shouting
to deaf ears
crocodile tears
politicians pretending
suits defending
excuses pending

who’s counting
arrogant procedural flouting
in violent bureaucracies
deadly democracies
silencing dissent
escaping consent
suffocating vent

who’s counting
the unlicensed touting
of fake non-profits
false prophets
services unrendered
government tendered
families dismembered

who’s counting
spirits in haunting
under tombstones
broken bones
flesh rotting
sanity knotting
ancestors plotting

who’s counting
promised resources jousting
mental health care
anything to spare?
begging bowls
gaping holes
desperate souls

who’s counting?

This poem was written in response to the South African health ombudsman’s report, No guns: 94+ silent deaths and still counting, documenting the inhumane, arrogant, and flawed manner in which people with chronic mental illnesses were transferred from secure Life Esidimeni institutes to unlicensed organisations. This ultimately led to their deaths due to neglect. This poem adds to the historical record that in 2016, our government, in its arrogance, systematically killed its own citizens, in one of post-1994 South Africa’s most devastating acts of state-sanctioned violence against a vulnerable group of people.

We will never forget.

Suntosh R Pillay (@suntoshpillay) is a clinical psychologist in public service in KwaZulu-Natal.

Featured image via Flickr