“I am not a prophet,” an unhappy former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu says.
If she was a prophet, Mahlangu says, she would have had the foresight to know the cancellation of the contract with Life Esidimeni would lead to the deaths of the 143 psychiatric patients.
Mahlangu told LegalAid South Africa counsel Advocate Lilla Crouse the human rights considerations were taken into account when moving patients from Life Esidimeni to NGOs.
She said: “I am not a prophet. Now I know that the human rights of patients were violated but it was not intentional and that’s important. If I were a prophet maybe I would have seen and had the foresight but I am not a prophet.”
The psychiatric patients died after being moved to NGOs - some of which were not registered.
Mahlangu says if she “had foresight” she would have done things differently. “I should have behaved differently and I apologize,”she said.
Head of the arbitration retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke asked Mahlangu why there department continued to ignore family members complaints about the closure of Life Esidimeni.
Families protested outside the department of health offices and met with Mahlangu in an effort to dissuade her from continuing with the project but she never relented.
Moseneke asked: “Why did you not listen to the people on the ground?”
Mahlangu said: “If I had the benefit of foresight I would have done things differently...I trusted the officials.”
She said she gave family members her personal cellphone number to call her with complaints but they never did.
Families continued to heckle her as she butted heads with Crouse. Moseneke has had to intervene a few times to get them to behave.
Earlier this morning, Mahlangu admitted that in deciding to close Life Esidimeni she never consulted with national Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
She said she never raised the issue in the National Health Council where Motsoaledi sits or in the provincial council that she chaired.
Mahlangu said if she “knew what she knows now” she would have informed Motsoaledi about the planned closure.
Mahlangu also maintained that she could not take personal responsibility for the deaths because the decision to close the facility was a collective one.