MEC of health Gwen Ramokgopa testifying on Wednesday at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings held in Parktown, Johannesburg. Picture: Brenda Masilela/ANA

Johannesburg - There may be an additional 12 deaths from the botched transfer of mentally ill patients, the arbitration hearings into the Life Esidimeni scandal heard on Wednesday.

Non-governmental organisation Section 27 told the hearing that there were 12 more patients who had not been included in the death toll of 144.

Advocate Nikki Stein revealed this information while cross examining Gauteng health member of the executive council (MEC) Gwen Ramokgopa on Wednesday. 

"You are saying there are 12 more cold bodies that have not been accounted for? That pushes the number of deceased to more than 156," said retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke who is chairing the arbitration proceedings.

However, Moseneke insisted that Stein could not question Ramokgopa about the 12 bodies until their identities had been confirmed. 

State advocate Tebogo Hutamo said they also had to verify whether the deaths occurred during the Life Esidimeni tragedy. 

Moseneke insisted that he wanted an answer by Wednesday still. The matter was adjourned until the identities of the deceased could be verified. 

African News Agency/ANA