Gauteng Finance MEC Barbara Creecy

Johannesburg - Gauteng Finance MEC Barbara Creecy will be called to the stand to either corroborate or refute the testimony of one of her former colleagues in the arbitration hearings looking into the deaths of 143 mentally ill patients.

Testifying this week about the transfer of patients from the Life Esidimeni facility to several unregistered non-governmental organisation - which led to the deaths of patients mostly from dehydration, starvation and negligence - former health MEC (member of executive council) Qedani Mahlangu blamed financial constraints.

Creecy, who was not on the official witness list, would be called to provide clarity on the provincial health department's finances after State advocate Tebogo Hutamo said her testimony was crucial to provide evidence on questions for which they do not have answers. 

The provincial health department said the decision to move the patients was aimed at cutting costs as they were spending R320 per patient per day as opposed to R112 a day - the price NGOs were charging. 

Legal representatives from Legal Aid and Section 27 expressed concern over the addition to the witness list, fearing it would prolong the hearings. 

Chairman of the hearings, retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke said Creecy's testimony was relevant as it would provide answers on whether cost cutting was the real reason behind the termination of the health department's contract with Life Esidimeni.

Creecy is expected to testify on Tuesday along with Gauteng Premier David Makhura. 

Their testimonies will be followed by current health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa and national health minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Wednesday. 

Earlier on Friday, a psychiatrist, Christoffel Grobler, told the hearings the department of health did not put enough thought into the deinstitutionalisation of patients.

"It's humanly impossible to move that high number of patients and have the reports that are needed." 

He said he considered the move cruel, adding it amounted to culpable homicide. 

African News Agency/ANA