'Why I fraudulently issued NGO licences' - official speaks at Life Esidimeni hearing

2018-01-18 20:52
Deputy director of mental health, Hannah Jacobus at the Life Esidimeni hearings. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

Deputy director of mental health, Hannah Jacobus at the Life Esidimeni hearings. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

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Johannesburg - A deputy director of mental health, overseeing non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Gauteng, was "acting under instructions given to her by former Gauteng director of mental health Makgabo Manamela" when she fraudulently issued licences for NGOs.

This was the testimony of Hannah Jacobus at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg, on Thursday.

Jacobus said she felt uncomfortable compiling licences for NGOs that she had not received audit reports for - something which she expressed to Manamela.

But Manamela apparently insisted on the unlawful issuing.

"I told doctor Manamela that I’m uncomfortable with how we went about issuing the licenses, but I did it because it was delegated by her. She was stressing about the looming closure of Life facilities," she testified.

The health official testified that she had raised her concerns at several meetings and on several occasions to those who were superior to her.

READ: Suspended Gauteng director of mental health resigns

She said she was apprehensive of Manamela because she did not listen to anyone.

Jacobus added that she, along with others, raised grievances about what Manamela called "unusual circumstances". They were told by her that they must follow instructions as they came from "senior management".

"She [Manamela] said this was an unusual circumstance as we had time constraints and there was urgency around the issuing of licences."

Jacobus said she felt sidelined after she raised her concerns as she was unceremoniously stripped of her duties and assigned to other tasks. She said Manamela spearheaded the marathon project, describing herself as a person with little involvement in the matter. 

"I'm just a very small fish...I didn't expect that things would go wrong. I've tried my level best," she said at some stage, breaking down emotionally to a hostile crowd.

Jacobus testified that she was aware of licenses that were backdated or issued to ill-equipped NGOs.

She added that some had not been formally audited and some were hurriedly issued for new patients to be placed there, despite some not having trained staff, financial records or the adequate care facilities for mentally ill patients.

She told the panel that the former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu was present in meetings that revealed that unlawful licences had been fraudulently issued to NGOs in a rush to accommodate mentally ill patients.

Section27's advocate Adila Hassim said that adhering to Manamela's instructions resulted in Jacobus flouting the law by playing a role in de-institutionalising mentally ill patients within a week to various ill-equipped NGOs around Gauteng, after the contract with Life Esidimeni was terminated by the Department of Health.

READ: Manamela has failed to take responsibility – Moseneke

Jacobus admitted to ignoring legal prescripts and national policy by issuing out licences to NGOs that had not been audited, reported on or capacitated.

Following the termination, more than 140 mentally ill patients died after being moved, with more than 50 patients still missing. Some were even raped at facilities.

Arbitration chair, retired Justice Dikgang Moseneke, quizzed Jacobus on what actions she took when she realised the unlawfulness that was playing out, as she had not reported any of the unlawfulness to the police or any other higher power. 

"In my ignorance, I believed that if you report to your seniors, the situation will be dealt with," she said.

Suspended head of health Barney Selabano announced his resignation on Wednesday, after Manamela announced hers earlier in the week.

Mahlangu is due to testify on Monday.

Read more on:    life esidimeni  |  qedani mahlangu  |  makgabo manamela  |  dikgang moseneke  |  johannesburg  |  health

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