Former Gauteng mental health head asks for Life Esidimeni inquest postponement
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Johannesburg - THE legal team representing former Gauteng head of mental health Makgabo Manamela have requested the Life Esidimeni inquest be halted for four weeks.
The Pretoria High Court is conducting the inquest which resumed on Monday following a week's postponement.
Judge Mmonoa Teffo is hearing the matter.
The inquest aims to probe whether criminal proceedings should follow against anyone linked to the deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni patients who were moved to various NGOs.
Proceedings were previously adjourned to allow parties to obtain legal representations.
On Monday, lawyer Shivhani Sibara, for Manamela, criticised the State’s handling of the matter regarding Manamela. He accused the evidence leader, advocate Pieter Luyt, of admitting an arbitration report, from the Esidimeni hearings, without consulting Manamela.
The arbitration report was penned by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikganag Moseneke and made significant findings against Manamela.
She said she was not consulted before the report was admitted for the inquest.
Sibara said Luyt and advocate Adila Hassim, representing affected families, had used the report to make statements against Manamela.
Sibara said he feared the opening statements could have tainted the court's view of Manamela. Sibara said the report was admitted without following proper legal proceedings and he asked the court for a four-week postponement for his team to familiarise itself with the case.
He wanted the arbitration report to be expunged from the court record.
Luyt, the evidence leader, disagreed with Sibara and said opening statements were not meant to incriminate anyone. He said it was not evidence.
"I think it is an insult to your ladyship to submit that your ladyship has been poisoned by what has been said to you in an opening address. I am sure that your ladyship is capable of distinguishing between an opening address and evidence," Luyt said.
Advocate Hassim, representing the families, also disagreed with a need for a postponement, saying the matter had to continue and the families involved deserved justice.
She said the inquest was not a trial and would result in recommendations from the judge. And if Manamela was eventually trialled, she had an option to defend herself there.
Hassim said the arbitration report was a crucial admission for the inquest as there would not be an inquest without the report itself.