Johannesburg - Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, who has emerged as the main person behind the botched Life Esidimeni transfers that led to the deaths of 143 mentally ill patients, is expected to testify at the arbitration hearings on Monday.
Early on Monday a group protesters stood outside the gates of Emoyeni where the Life Esidimeni hearings are being held.
Security has been tightened at the conference centre ahead of Mahlangu's appearance. To enter the venue, people are expected to produce their identity documents and then go through a metal detector.
Family members of psychiatric patients who died during the Life Esidimeni marathon project are wearing T-shirts demanding justice for their loved ones.
Mahlangu was the Gauteng Health MEC when patients were moved from Life Esidimeni to various NGOs across the province where they died of hunger, neglect and dehydration.
Officials who have appeared at the hearings described a climate of fear that arose from Mahlangu’s "determination" to cancel the Life Esidimeni contract and send mental patients to unsuitable NGOs.
Last week deputy director of mental health Hannah Jacobus, in her testimony, pointed fingers at Mahlangu saying she was the one who pushed for the transfer of the patients in a bid to cut costs.
Several subordinates allege they had to cut corners to meet Mahlangu's demands to get the transfers done.
Mahlangu resigned her MEC position over the tragedy last year and went to study overseas. She was, however, summoned while studying at the Global Banking School in Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom to return to South Africa to appear before retired deputy chief justice Dikang Moseneke.
The UK college has since suspended Mahlangu citing the seriousness of allegations levelled against her in relation to the tragedy.
Meanwhile the DA said on Sunday that Mahlangu must accept responsibility for the 143 Life Esidimeni deaths.
"I hope that she avoids any more stalling tactics and testifies openly and truthfully without her previous arrogance that led to this tragedy in which 143 people died," DA spokesman Jack Bloom said.
Bloom sad Mahlangu needed to answer certain key questions:
* What were the true reasons for cancelling the Esidimeni contract when a study commissioned by the department found that it was cost-effective and provided good care?
* Why did she ignore so persistently all the warnings that moving so many patients to NGOs would lead to deaths?
* Why did she mislead the Gauteng legislature by providing untrue replies to Bloom's questions in the legislature? She had a constitutional duty to reply accurately to questions in the legislature, and personally signed those for written reply, but on November 18, 2015, for instance, she said only 591 patients would be placed with NGOs when more than 1000 patients were actually sent to NGOs, and
* What information did she provide to premier David Makhura and the executive council in this matter, and what was their complicity in the decisions that were taken?
"Qedani Mahlangu should seek to make amends with honest testimony and a sincere apology to the relatives of the victims who have suffered so much from her ill-considered actions.
"She should acknowledge her personal and direct responsibility for this terrible tragedy rather than blaming officials as scapegoats," Bloom said.
Mahlangu is one of the three people that Moseneke said must testify before the hearings can end. The others are former head of department Dr Tiego Selebano and former head of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela. The two resigned last week.
African News Agency and IOL