JOHANNESBURG – The Life Esidimeni public hearing into the deaths of 143 psychiatric patients who died at unlicensed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Gauteng will resume in January.
The hearing, chaired by retired Justice Dikgang Moseneke will reconvene on 18 January.
Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, widely blamed for the tragedy, was subpoenaed to testify and would appear before the arbitration between 22-26 January.
In 2014/15 the province spent R323 million to treat 2,378 patients at the facilities, and Mahlangu said: “the department cannot afford this”. She said the move would facilitate community care, human dignity and community integration.
She resigned in February in the wake of the damning report on the marathon project by Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba.
The suspended Head of Gauteng Mental Health, Dr Makgabo Manamela, said the termination of the Life Esidimeni contract was a cost-cutting measure.
Manamela blamed the Life Esidimeni tragedy on a number of factors and said her department alone shouldn’t take the blame.
The last testimony was heard from suspended HOD Barney Selebano this week, whose attempts to evade giving testimony failed after he approached the high court to block his subpoena.
He had earlier denied being responsible as the health boss and said the botched project was as a result of a ”collective responsibility” in the department.
On Friday, Selebano admitted the department erred when it ignored warnings from families and psychiatrists within the department about the fatal Life Esidimeni project.
He brought families to tears when he asked for forgiveness and that they allow him into their homes so he can personally apologise.
Makgoba was one of the officials fingered in Makgoba’s report on the botched removal of former Life Esidimeni patients.
Makgoba found that Selebano committed ”gross misconduct and incompetence” as one of the officials in charge of the transfer of mental patients from Life Esidimeni NGOs.
Makgoba further recommended his conduct be reported to the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).
African News Agency