Johannesburg - The head of the project which saw 118 Life Esidimeni patients die after they were moved to a number of unlicensed NGOs, admitted he was kept in the dark about why the move was pushed through by his superiors despite his misgivings.
Levy Mosenogi, the director of planning, policy and research at the Gauteng health department, was the first witness with direct involvement in the Life Esidimeni project to be called to testify at the arbitration hearing in Johannesburg on Tuesday after the state's counsel indicated that former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu would not be appearing.
Counsel representing the families was only briefed about the plans to call Mosenogi to testify during the morning tea break on Tuesday morning. When Mosenogi was called to testify he was unable to answer certain questions and had vague responses for others.
However, Mosenogi admitted the tragedy should never have happened.
"As a department, I must say we made mistakes," he said. "It should not have happened as it happened."
READ: Life Esidimeni: The greatest cause of human right violations since democracy
Mosenogi told the hearing on Tuesday that he had warned the department about the move, yet the department pushed ahead with the transfer of patients from Life Esidimeni to various NGOs, some of which were not licensed correctly.
"The challenges were always pointed out," he said.
"I don't know if it was deliberate, but I was kept out of the picture," Mosenogi said.
Mosenogi is set to continue with his testimony on Wednesday.
Lies or incompetence?
Earlier in the day, Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba repeated a point he made on the first day of the hearings that Gauteng health officials were being "economical with the truth".
He was responding to Advocate Dirk Groenewald who questioned him about the department's promise to concerned families that they would be able to take care of their relatives.
Groenewald was acting on behalf of trade union Solidarity, which is representing three families who lost loved ones who died after being transferred to the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre.
According to Groenewald's questioning, the department promised the families their loved ones would be fine. He was asking Makgoba whether the department had lied to the families.
Makgoba, however, didn't want to answer that question.
"I don't know if they lied or if they were incompetent," he said.