Johannesburg - The blame game continues at the Life Esidimeni hearings. On Monday morning, the much-anticipated appearance of former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu saw her trying to pass the buck for the ill-fated patient transfer.
Mahlangu, who resigned from her position last year, claims she was just a politician and former HOD Dr Tiego Selebano was the one driving the Life Esidimeni move.
She also claimed Selebano kept her in the dark about problems related to the project.
Mahlangu claimed Selebano and other officials developed the Life Esidimeni implementation plan and she trusted them because they are qualified health professionals.
"The HOD with other officials developed the Life Esidimeni plan,” she said.
Responding to this statement, retired deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke asked :”Did you have to approve the plan?” Mahlangu said she did not. Moseneke then asked whether ”the HOD was the final arbiter?” to which Mahlangu replied ”yes.”
In his testimony last year, Selebano, who has since resigned, said he was following Mahlangu’s instructions in implementing the project.
Over 100 people died when they were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities to unregistered NGOs. They died of hunger, dehydration and malnutrition.
Mahlangu claims she only provided guidance to Selebano and his team when they needed it.
Mahlangu said she never wanted to runaway from the proceedings but had been studying in the United Kingdom. ”I did indicate I was available. I didn’t run away.my being in the UK had to do with my studies. I never ran away,” she said.
She also apologised to families for the deaths.
"I have taken the liberty to appear before the hearings to give information regarding Life Esidimeni.The death of people is indeed painful. Our health system is meant to persevere and where possible prolong human life. Clearly this didn’t go according to plan and I sincerely apologise,” Mahalngu said.
Some relatives of the Esidimeni patients loudly protested while others cried.
While Mahlangu was giving evidence a group of TAC and SAFTU members gathered outside the Emoyeni conference center gates. They sang and shouted “Qedani is a murderer.” The group has not been allowed inside and the gates to the venue have been locked.
The hearing continues.