Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu told Life Esidimeni that she slept under a stove when growing up, and so could the mentally ill patients. Picture: ANA

Johannesburg - Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu told Life Esidimeni that she slept under a stove when growing up, and so could the mentally ill patients because they have to be transferred, the arbitration hearing held in Johannesburg heard on Wednesday. 

Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa, who informed the arbitration hearing that he has since resigned from Esidimeni as a result of the traumatic experience of patients dying at NGOs, said Mahlangu cited Brazil as having no psychiatric hospital.

“I got the shock of my life in one meeting when she told me about Brazil, and that she slept under a stove and so can the patients. I asked her what happened when the patients got aggressive...she said they got chained,” an emotional Mkhatshwa said.

He decried the hurried up transfer of patients, adding that Gauteng probably wanted to be a “trailblazer” in de-institutionalising mentally ill patients to NGOs.

“We warned the department about the danger of hurrying that. I personally wrote to the department that the patients are used to familiar environment, immediate removal will have an impact on them psychologically...the only family they knew was us...we warned of the implications of the officials’ decision,” he said.

Mahlangu has since resigned in the wake of the Esidimeni tragedy that saw 141 patients die at ill-equipped NGOs due to starvation, cold weather and dehydration.

Mkhatshwa said: “I thought the department had learnt from the 2007 experience where children died at NGOs...their decision was not clinically rational.”