Deputy director of mental health Hanna Jacobus sobbed and asked for forgiveness from different families. She said she regrets the decisions she made and for allowing herself to be bullied by people in senior positions. PHOTO: Brenda Masilela/ANA

Johannesburg - A deputy director of the Gauteng health department, who was part of the marathon project which transferred patients from Life Esidimeni to unlicensed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) was inconsolable on Friday, as she admitted that she was wrong for not stopping the project which resulted in the death of 143 psychiatric patients.

"I feel so humiliated, so useless," Hannah Jacobus said crying hysterically as she was apologising to families while testifying at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing into the death of 143 patients. 

"I'm sorry about the pain the sadness families are going through. I want to apologise to the country as a whole about the implementation of this project that caused the death of so many mental health care users. I regret I didn't do more to stop the project on my side," she said tearfully.

During the botched project, Jacobus was in charge of identifying, vetting and appointing NGOs. 

On Thursday, she made a shocking revelation and told the arbitration that her first in command, former director of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela instructed her to break the law by issuing licenses without following procedures.   

On Friday, she conceded that there was a culture of fear in the department and that employees were fearful of Manamela who would not listen to anyone.

"I have become wiser. I am extremely sorry that I allowed management to bully me," Jacobus said.

"I pray and ask that people will pray with me that I can get over this guilty feelings."

Earlier, during cross examination by Lilla Crouse from Legal Aid SA, after many attempts from different counsels, Jacobus finally admitted that 
Manamela told them that it was former Gauteng health member of the executive council (MEC) Qedani Mahlangu's plan to terminate the department's contract with Life Esidimeni.

"She said its senior management, and then she said its MEC. She has taken a decision and it must be implemented.," Jacobus said.

Crouse questioned her saying: "So now you saying its the MEC who took the decisions, why did you take so long after a day and quarter of evidence to say that?" 

Responding, Jacobus said: "I'm sorry mam, I apologise." 

Jacobus went through a disciplinary hearing and received a final warning. She continues to serve as the province’s deputy director after she was put on probation for six months.

Retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke described the disciplinary hearing as a slap on a wrist.

"You received a final written warning after all those deaths and suffering. That's coming off very lightly right? like you came late to work late," Moseneke said.

"Do you think a written warning is punishment enough?"

Jacobus replied: "The personal and emotional impact is much worse than the written warning. I am still suffering under that."

Mahlangu who has been widely blamed for the botched project is expected to testify on Monday. 

African News Agency/ANA