Johannesburg - Qedani Mahlangu says there is inconclusive evidence that moving patients led to the death of over 140 psychiatric patients.
Giving testimony at the Life Esidimeni alternative dispute resolution hearings, Mahlangu was asked whether the 143 patients died because of the move she said: “There is inconclusive evidence.I did not do the autopsies and I don’t have the results.”
She cited a judgment by Judge Bernard Ngoepe in October 2017 that overturned Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba’s findings into Masego and Takalani NGOs.
At the time, Ngoepe said there was no proof on how the patients died. He also held back at blaming the NGOs because they didn’t have patients medical records because the Department of Health owed the Life Healthcare group.
Mahlangu said: ”I accept that people lost their lives and that is regrettable.”
Head of the arbitration Retired deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke asked if she agreed that the deaths were as a result of unlawful action by officials. “I accept.”
She also mumbled agreement when she was asked if patients died because of the trauma of the moves from Life Esidimeni to NGOs.
She maintained there was nothing wrong the project.
“There was nothing wrong with terminating the contract with Life Esidimeni, but the implementation of the project was what was wrong,” Mahlangu said.
She also hinted at a strained relationship between her and former head of department Dr Tiego Selebano but denied she was a bully.
During his testimony last year, Selebano said he was afraid to raise his concerns about the project with the former MEC. Mahlangu rubbished this.
“At no stage did Barney Selebano say MEC I am uncomfortable with this or that...”
Moseneke said:”He said he was scared of you...” Mahlangu retorted:”That is absolutely incorrect.”
She said she was unaware he was afraid of her and if he was, he should have raised the matter with Gauteng premier David Makhura.
Heads of departments are appointed by premiers.
Again, Moseneke asked Mahlangu why she resigned from her position last year. She said she was keeping with international standards that require a political principal fall on their swords when they do something wrong.
She also said after the disastrous project, she could not justify drawing her salary anymore.
In her testimony Mahlangu continued to shift all blame to Selebano saying she trusted him as a trained medical professional.
She said letters of complaints from medical associations and civil society was supposed to be dealt with by Selebano, even when addressed to her.