Qedani Mahlangu says she will testify at hearing, after judge threatens subpoena
The former Gauteng health MEC was the leader behind the project to close Life Esidimeni homes and move 1‚712 psychiatric patients to ill-equipped NGOs or their family homes
Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has told a lawyer she will voluntarily testify at the arbitration hearing probing the deaths of more than 100 state psychiatric hearing.
Advocate Tebogo Hutamo told the hearing that the state had made contact with Mahlangu and she could not attend now as she was writing exams‚ but would come in November or December.
Mahlangu was the leader behind the project to close Life Esidimeni homes and move 1‚712 psychiatric patients into ill-equipped nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) or their family homes.
By February this year‚ 118 mentally ill people had died in NGOs and 141 had died in total by September.
Families have called on Mahlangu to be subpoenaed from London‚ where she is studying‚ to explain why the Life Esidimeni homes were shut.
The hearings wrap up on Friday‚ but will resume at a later date. The new dates for the hearing will be announced this week.
Hearing Judge Dikgang Moseneke said if he did not have written confirmation that Mahlangu would attend and on what date she would appear‚ she must be subpoenaed by all lawyers involved in the hearing.
He said the hearings would not be completed until the three senior people behind the Esidimeni closures testified. They are Mahlangu‚ former head of department Barney Selebano and former director of mental health Dr Makgoba Manamela.
Moseneke said he had told lawyers repeatedly in his chambers to ensure those witnesses attended.
"I have continually directed that steps must be taken so we have them here. We are not going to run out of time … unless I die‚" he said in a joking manner.
"It is in the public interest to make it known that it is my position that those three witnesses come before us ahead of and above the national minister of health‚ the premier of Gauteng province and the current Gauteng MEC for health."
Moseneke asked for a special report last Thursday from all lawyers involved about all steps taken to ensure Mahlangu‚ Selebano and Manamela’s attendance.
Manamela was sent a subpoena on Friday to attend‚ Section 27 advocate Adila Hassim told the hearing.
Witnesses testified that Manamela knew the NGOs did not have adequate food‚ money or staff to look after sick people. It also emerged she may have given a contract to another Gauteng health department staff member to transport bodies of deceased NGO patients‚ Moseneke and Section 27 lawyers told the hearing in its first week.