Johannesburg - Qedani Mahlangu doesn’t know whether proper tender processes were followed to give NGOs the Life Esidimeni contracts.
The former Gauteng Health MEC said as a politician, she was not part of the tender processes.
One of the reasons the Life Esidimeni contract was terminated, according to Mahlangu, was because it had been in place for a longtime without going through a tender process. This, she said, raised questions with the auditor-general.
But she was unable to state whether in the department’s plans to close Life Esidimeni and move psychiatric patients to NGOs, proper tender processes were followed. Over 140 patients died from neglect, malnutrition and dehydration after being moved to the NGOs.
Mahlangu said as a politician, the law did not permit her to deal with that. She said questions related to be tender processes could only be answered by officials.
Mahlangu still insists that no one person can be held accountable for deciding to end the contract but that it was “a collective decision.”
Asked by head of the arbitration retired deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke whether the collective considered putting the project to give NGOs patients to tender, Mahlangu answered: ”I don’t know, Justice.”
Questioned further, Mahlangu said she didn’t remember having a discussion on the tender process. Most of the NGOs that were given contracts to care for patients were not registered which is against the Public Finance Management Act.
Mahlangu claims she was only given a checklist for identifying NGOs. “I had no reason to doubt the information I was given,” she said.
In her testimony on Wednesday morning, Mahlangu continued to insist she was misled by senior health department officials. She fingered former HOD Dr Tiego Selebano, former head of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela, deputy director of clinical services Dr Richard Lebethe and project leader Levy Mosenogi as the culprits.
Moseneke asked: “Have you ever thought why Dr Selebano would give you false assurances?”
Mahlangu said: “This has preoccupied my mind for a long time... I respected him greatly.”
Moseneke questioned her about Mosenogi’s assertion that Mahlangu drove the deadly project herself and he wrote to her begging her not to move patients from the children’s facility Baneng. Mahlangu says she doesn’t remember the communication because she was admitted to hospital twice during that period.
Moseneke: "He said he was scared of you. He said you were only prepared to not shutdown Baneng." All the officials that Mahlangu is blaming for the project all testified that she ruled the department with an iron fist and they were scared of her. But she rubbished this. “I do not know why people I worked with, who came to meetings claim they were fearful of me. I know myself to be a very warm person.
This received shouts from family members claiming she’s a liar. Several times they had to be reminded not to heckle her.