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MENTAL HEALTHCARE SCANDAL

Life Esidimeni – judge brushes aside ex-Gauteng health official’s bid to delay hearing

Life Esidimeni – judge brushes aside ex-Gauteng health official’s bid to delay hearing
Dr Makgabo Manamela at the Life Esidimeni hearings in Johannesburg on 24 November 2017. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath)

The judge says there is nothing new in Dr Makgabo Manamela’s affidavit, and that another postponement of the Life Esidimeni Inquest would not be ‘in the interest of justice’.

The Life Esidimeni Inquest was meant to resume with former Gauteng mental health director, Dr Makgabo Manamela – a key witness – taking the stand on Monday. However, at the 11th hour she sent through a request for postponement, saying she was not ready to appear. 

“Due to the volume of the record I cannot (sic) only do this exercise from midnight to take advantage of data bundles after hours,” she said.

She also said she was unable to complete and send her evidence notes to her team, and that on 30 August she realised she would not be able to make the 5 September deadline. She suggested that Dr Barney Selebano, who was head of department at the Gauteng health department at the time, take the stand in her place.  

The evidence leader, legal counsel for Selebano, legal counsel for former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and legal counsel representing the families of the patients who died during the marathon transfer of mental healthcare users from Life Esidimeni, opposed the application, saying that most of the documentation that Manamela would have had to go through had been available since at least June 2022 for her to peruse in time for her testimony. 

The legal counsel added that further postponements would be costly. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “Former Gauteng health official denies being part of decision-making team in Life Esidimeni tragedy

Manamela’s legal counsel said they were also submitting their application for postponement in accordance with Section 34 of the Constitution, which states: “Everyone has the right to have any dispute that can be resolved by the application of law decided in a fair public hearing before a court or, where appropriate, another independent and impartial tribunal or forum.

‘Nothing new’

Judge Mmonoa Teffo said she was “not going to give a long ruling”, adding that when the matter was adjourned on 17 August, the court granted the postponement and ruled that the matter continues on Monday. 

“I want to align myself with submissions with regards to Section 34 of the Constitution,” the judge said. “Parties are confusing an inquest and criminal proceedings. We have always said it is not a criminal trial, it is an inquest.” 


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Teffo said that looking at the affidavit submitted by Manamela, she didn’t see anything new that had come up which would justify a postponement. 

“This inquest has been sitting for almost a year now. I am of the view that counsel has been given sufficient and ample opportunity in order to be ready to proceed this matter. Furthermore it is in the interest of everyone that this inquest be brought to finality. Further postponements create further problems.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Life Esidimeni: Dr Makgabo Manamela’s absence from arbitration upsets victim’s mother on her late son’s birthday

“It is not in the interest of justice to grant a further postponement on this matter” said the judge, who ruled that the inquest would resume as scheduled on Tuesday.

Central player

In his report on the Life Esidimeni marathon project in 2016, Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba identified Manamela as one of the central people involved in the project as a “cost-cutting” initiative, and who also approved licences for the ill-equipped NGOs where patients died, something she did not have the power to do.

During the Life Esidimeni arbitration in 2017, which came as a result of Makgoba’s report and was presided over by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, he said that “maybe you didn’t care‚ you signed whatever you signed‚ you forget it was about people who had blood and flesh” when Manamela refused to take responsibility for the approval of the NGOs.

The inquest resumes on Tuesday at 10am. DM/MC

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Theresa Avenant says:

    This woman does not appear to experience any emotion whatsoever. People died as a result of Esidemi. They were very sick. They were left to die in the most horrendous circumstances – in terrible discomfort – in a state of filth and neglect. They were denied medical attention. They were cold and exposed to the elements without warmth. They were hungry and were left to starve to death. This woman does not appear to be human. Surely a person in a position such as hers, would provide proper oversight. What kind of people did she employ? It seems as though they remained idle whilst people died in front of them. Relatives and loved ones were not informed and knew nothing of what was going on. Why are things like this allowed to happen?

  • sl0m0 za says:

    “refused to take responsibility”- this summarises the “teenagers” in charge of our country. They all have the “all about me” mentality and cannot fathom the concept of actually being held responsible while “play acting” as our government

  • Chris Green says:

    HPCSA , hellooooo, anyone out there. Or are you awaiting a formal complaint.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The Gauteng Department of Health has long been a crime scene from the burning of its headquarters at Lisbon Building to destroy evidence of corruption and malfeasance as well as the office of the Gauteng Premier of which the investigation of a corrupt IT tender is going nowhere. The police are complicit in the corruption of the Gauteng government from housing, health and education. The Life Esidimeni points to the office of the premier and executive overreach with officials in fear of losing their jobs were forced into budget cuts in total disregard of the mentally ill patients who could not speak for themselves and taking advantage of poor families with no resources to visit their loved ones. The criminal lot that has been running Gauteng for years has to be exposed for what they are. An uncaring lot who are no less than thugs.

  • Lawrence Sisitka says:

    There are many angles to this dreadful story, and , yes, the initial focus will inevitably be on the high ranking government officials who took the appalling and inhumane decision to remove so many deeply troubled people from often their one place of safety to face a deeply uncertain future, in the interests of ‘efficiency’. But questions also need to be asked of those at the recipient NGOs (if such they were), who watched fellow human beings dying in the most appalling ways; from dehydration, starvation and hypothermia, without so much as lifting a hand to help them with a glass of water a piece of bread or a blanket. What kind of people could actually do that – or did they just lock the doors and walk away? A bigger question of course, given the complicity of so many people in these awful and completely needles deaths, is what does this whole episode say about our, South African society’s, understanding of and approach to mental illness. Everything about the Life Esidemeni tragedy suggests that, even within the so-called caring profession, sufferers from mental illness are considered somehow less than human, and can be treated worse than animals.

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