Advocate Lerato Mashilane who is the Legal Representitive of former Director of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela leaves the Life Esidimeni Arbitration hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL/THE TIMES
Advocate Lerato Mashilane who is the Legal Representitive of former Director of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela leaves the Life Esidimeni Arbitration hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL/THE TIMES

A medical certificate is being sought after the suspended director of mental health services in Gauteng, Dr Makgabo Manamela, failed to appear before the Life Esidimeni arbitration tribunal in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

A warrant of arrest has also been ordered, which has been suspended till Thursday.

Manamela called in sick, halting the testimony that she had started on Monday. She fell ill after Monday’s proceedings in which she contradicted herself on the witness stand while being grilled about the transfer of mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni to nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) around Gauteng.

Manamela was in charge of the project to transfer more than 100 mentally ill patients to some unlicensed NGOs in the province.

The move resulted in the deaths of at least 143 patients.

The tribunal‚ headed by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke‚ heard that Manamela took ill on Monday evening.

"At first she thought she was just tired. They say joy comes in the morning. She thought she would feel better in the morning‚" said Manamela’s lawyer‚ Lerato Mashilane.

He said Manamela would be able to continue with her testimony on Thursday.

"Is it the doctor’s recommendation that she can only testify on Thursday?" asked Moseneke. Mashilane said that was the case.

He said a medical certificate would be presented to the arbitration tribunal before the end of business on Tuesday.

Lawyers representing the families of the victims demanded that a warrant of arrest be issued because they were not presented with proof that she was sick.

Advocate Adila Hassim‚ who represents families on behalf of Section27‚ said the families were taking strain due to Manamela’s failure to attend the proceedings.

"It is causing distress. They feel disrespected‚" she said.

Moseneke ordered that a warrant of arrest — suspended until Thursday — be granted.

Lawyers who represented section 27 are expected to secure the warrant.

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