#LifeEsidimeni: I was not aware patients were dying, says Mahlangu

2018-01-24 20:04
Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

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Johannesburg – Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has told the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing that she was never aware that patients were dying.

"If I was made aware...we would not be sitting here today. That I can assure you," she said during her second day of testimony in Parktown, Johannesburg, on Wednesday.

Mahlangu, who often struggled to answer questions, shifted the blame onto her subordinates.

She said that had she been aware, she would have done her best to ensure that patients who were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities were placed in well-equipped NGOs.

She pleaded with former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke to answer some of the questions directed at her on Thursday, in order to "refresh" her memory.  

When Moseneke asked why Mahlangu did not take precautions to ensure that NGOs were properly capacitated before sending patients there, she said she tried her best.

'I don't know how a licence works'

"You and the collective decided to close down, the hospital is full, you visit and find unsatisfactory conditions at Cullinan and NGOs. Why didn't you order closure or that they move to better places?" Moseneke asked.

Mahlangu replied that she had requested for patients to be moved to better facilities, and expected officials to do so after instructing them.

But she conceded that she does not remember asking to see a licence when visiting one of the NGOs, Precious Angels.

"I don't know how a licence works," Mahlangu said.

Some of the NGOs to which patients were transferred did not have licences. She also said she knew nothing about the NGOs.

Advocate Adila Hassim, representing Section 27, also grilled Mahlangu for not taking patients to safer places of care.

'I know myself to be a very warm person'

But the former MEC said it was the responsibility of officials of government who are qualified.

Asked who she would charge for the Life Esidimeni tragedy, Mahlangu said she would charge Levy Mosenogi, who was the head of the project which led to the death of 143 mentally ill patients, former head of mental health Makgabo Manamela and former head of department Barney Selebano.

Moseneke also pressed her on why she rushed the project. He asked what the urgency was that Mahlangu had to "slam the door behind patients?"

"Information I had at my disposal did not suggest that things would go horribly wrong," she replied.

Earlier, Mahlangu said she considered herself a "warm" person and did not understand why some officials claimed they were afraid of her.

"I don't know why all of a sudden they would be scared of me. I know myself to be a very warm person."

READ: 'I am a warm person,' says Mahlangu

When Mahlangu described herself as warm, some members of the public in the crowd responded with disbelief and said she was dishonest.

Mosenogi was not the only official who claimed to fear Mahlangu.

Selebano previously testified that he was afraid to stand up to her after he continued acting in contravention of the rights of mentally ill patients under her instruction.

"I didn't stand up that time, I wish I had... I doubt it would have gotten any better results. Probably, we would still have walked this tragic road," he said at the time.

Read more on:    life esidimeni  |  qedani mahlangu

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