Family members gather outside the Gauteng health department in Johannesburg at a vigil on October 27 2016 for 37 patients who died after the department moved them from 
the Life Healthcare Esidimeni  psychiatric hospital to community-based NGO care centres.    Picture: SOWETAN
Family members gather outside the Gauteng health department in Johannesburg at a vigil on October 27 2016 for 37 patients who died after the department moved them from the Life Healthcare Esidimeni psychiatric hospital to community-based NGO care centres. Picture: SOWETAN

The most senior official involved in the Life Esidimeni tragedy‚ Dr Makgoba Manamela‚ took the stand at the arbitration hearing on Monday to explain her role in events leading to 143 mentally ill patients dying.

She contradicted herself on the stand and was told frequently by Judge Dikgang Moseneke to speak slowly and answer questions.

Manamela had to be subpoenaed twice before she would appear after her lawyers had found an error on the first subpoena.

Her lawyer‚ Lerato Mashilane‚ delayed proceedings by four hours‚ by asking for a postponement in what was called a "wholly unprepared" submission. Moseneke asked the fumbling lawyer: "How long have you been practising?"

Moseneke dismissed the request for a postponement after saying he had exercised "extreme patience".

Manamela, who has a PhD in psychiatric nursing, was found by the health ombudsman to have written invalid licences for ill-equipped and inexperienced NGOs to look after severely mentally ill patients‚ who later died. Some NGO licences had incorrect addresses on them‚ or were for places that did not exist.

On the stand‚ Manamela told evidence leader advocate Nontlantla Yina that all the NGOs were licensed and "had been inspected by a team" before she issued the paperwork.

Yina told her that she had issued a licence to Precious Angels, an NGO where 20 patients died, with the address wrongly listed as Lynnwood‚ although Precious Angels operated in Danville and Atteridgeville.

Moseneke became annoyed with her failure to explain discrepancies in the licences. He said: "This is not a lesson on how clever we can be. Do you know how many people died at Precious Angels?"

Please sign in or register to comment.