Gauteng Premier David Makhura File picture: Phill Magakoe

Johannesburg - Gauteng premier David Makhura's role in the transfer of Life Esidimeni mental health patients to dubious NGOs, which led to 141 deaths, must be investigated following new evidence that he knew about the move, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

Former mental health review board director Dumi Masondo on Friday told the Esidimeni arbitration hearings that Makhura had attended meetings on the move of the patients, DA spokesman Jack Bloom said.

"This flatly contradicts Makhura's claim that he did not know that the patients were sent to NGOs but were going to other state health facilities," he said.

Masondo also said that former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu was instructed to end the Life Esidimeni contract by "people above her". She was testifying under oath so her accusations had to be taken seriously, Bloom said.

Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu who resigned when it emerged she allegedly lied to both the Gauteng premier and health minister about the gravity of the Life Esidimeni tragedy. 

Other evidence implicating Makhura included the claim by Dr Barney Selebano, the head of the Gauteng health department, that the "decision to start deinstitutionalisation of mental health care users from LE [Esidimeni] was undertaken in the office of the premier of Gauteng, the honourable David Makhura, together with the HOD", according to page 30 of the ombudsman's report.

Makhura was due to testify at the hearings along with Selebano and Mahlangu, whose whereabouts were still in doubt according to a report on Sunday that she was not, after all, a student at the London School of Economics as previously reported.

"The ANC Gauteng provincial executive committee has admitted that they gave her leave of absence to study in the UK, so they can be contacted to get her address. I am encouraged by Judge Dikgang Moseneke's assurance that the hearings will not conclude without the appearance of all key players. They should face tough questioning so that we finally get the truth about the Esidimeni tragedy," Bloom said.

Last week Bloom said it was essential for Mahlangu to account for her actions, "as she insisted on cancelling the Esidimeni contract for mental health patients despite warnings that this would result in disaster. She also intimidated officials in the transfer of patients to illegally registered NGOs where they died, and tried to cover up what was happening”.
African News Agency