Johannesburg - The sister of a mentally ill patient has told the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing that suspended Gauteng head of mental health, Dr Makgabo Manamela, told her not to worry about something that has not happened yet, when she raised concerns about her sister.
“We were told by other male patients, who were saying that she just takes her clothes off and there are no caregivers present during their leisure time. I never got an answer from staff as to what they do to stop this,” she said.
Lesego Baloyi was testifying at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg on Monday.
Her 51-year-old sister, Malentswe Kgatle - who was diagnosed as severely mentally disabled at the age of one - was moved from Life Esidimeni to a non-governmental organisation in 2016.
Baloyi said her sister’s health deteriorated after she was moved to Takalani Home and that she saw a marked decline in her levels of happiness.
During a march in October 2016, Baloyi testified that she raised her concerns to Manamela.
“I was not only worried about my sister, but also the lives of those in the yard with her.
“[Manamela] said they will try to assist [my sister] with a bodysuit or a jumpsuit with a zip at the back. She also said they would look into therapy [for my sister] and assist. Not one jumpsuit was given to my sister,” she said.
Takalani is supposed to take care of mentally ill children, but instead, during the rushed move of mentally ill patients to various unlicensed NGOs, the NGO took on more than what it was equipped to handle.
“They took risks that they knew they couldn’t handle. They took these risks because they wanted money,” said Baloyi.
Over 140 patients died at different NGOs in the cost-cutting move by the health department.
As the hearings continued, it was revealed that patients were starved, unlicensed NGOs were given licenses, NGOs were funded by their owners, patients were not given medication, were hardly bathed and that they were dehydrated.
It has also been revealed that there are still many missing patients.
Baloyi testified that the facility personnel never told them about the deaths at the facilities, as hardly any information was disclosed. She said they found out about the deaths through the media.
She told the hearing that many families have sleepless nights because they are not sure if the department has a contract with Life Esidimeni again and if it's affordable this time.
Baloyi said she hopes that history does not repeat itself, adding that someone must be held accountable.
“As the country, we should remember ubuntu and not just make drastic decisions in order to save money when, in other instances, money is not an issue. As families, we always say we have learnt a lot from this. We must treat the mentally disabled with dignity,” she said.
Earlier on Monday, the former Gauteng health department head Barney Selobane lost his court application for the setting aside of a subpoena, which instructed him to testify, because he "failed to establish a basis on which his subpoena can be challenged”.
His application for leave to appeal was also denied on the basis that it had minimal chances of success.
He is due to testify on Tuesday at the hearings, news which was well received by the family members who applauded and shouted: "Thank you".