Life Esidimeni inquest postponed to August

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Protests during the testimony of former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings on 22 January 2018 in Johannesburg.
Protests during the testimony of former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings on 22 January 2018 in Johannesburg.
PHOTO: Alet Pretorius/Getty Images
  • The Life Esidimeni inquest has been postponed so that implicated parties can consult with their legal representatives.
  • The inquest will resume on 2 August.
  • The inquest is aimed at establishing if anyone can be held liable for the deaths of 144 mental health patients.

The first week of the Life Esidimeni inquest has again been interrupted over issues of legal representation for those implicated in the tragedy.

Earlier this week, the inquest had to adjourn because the former head of mental health in Gauteng Dr Makgabo Manamela did not have legal representation.

On Friday morning, some of the implicated NGOs indicated they had secured legal representation, and they now needed to familiarise themselves with the case.

Since the start of the inquest on Monday, only two witnesses - Cassie Chambers from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group and former Life Esidimeni MD Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa - have taken to the stand.

The two still need to be cross-examined.

Family members of the Life Esidimeni victims demand answers.

The inquest is being heard virtually at the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to determine if anyone should be held liable for the deaths of 144 mental health patients. The patients died after being moved from Life Esidimeni hospitals to ill-equipped NGOs.

Manamela only managed to secure legal representation on Thursday night.

Her lawyer, advocate Shavhani Sibara, said the State Attorney's office only contacted him on Thursday evening to tell him to represent Manamela. "I don't have access to the case line. I don't have a list of witnesses. I have not consulted with my client at all."

Evidence leader advocate Pieter Luyt also asked for a postponement because he could not access his office, which has been closed for decontamination after two employees tested positive for Covid-19.

Judge Mmonoa Teffo said she would postpone the matter to ensure that all witnesses are represented fairly.

"Given the importance of this matter, the issue of legal representation is important. We have to ensure that all the parties are properly represented and, under the circumstances, it is in the interest of justice to postpone this matter until the 2nd of August," she said.

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