Johannesburg - A doctor who has been implicated in the disastrous relocation of more than 3000 Life Esidimeni patients to unlicensed NGOs on Monday said she was not ready to testify before the alternative dispute resolution committee into the tragedy, but her request for a postponement was declined.
Director of Mental Health, Doctor Makgabo Manamela, was implicated after the Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba released a report on over 140 patients who died as a result of the botched transfer.
"My client should be given a postponement. My client doesn't doesn't have information to prepare herself to come before this arbitration," said Manamela's legal representative Lerato Mashilane.
"I know there's a volume of information, so my client has to go through that. My client might need further documentation in order to reply to this arbitration."
Mashilane argued that it would be unfair for his client to testify without being furnished with documents to peruse and prepare herself properly.
"My client has been implicated in this matter, so she needs the documents and to be able to stand her ground and answer adequately."
Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke appeared puzzled by the request and asked Mashilane if he could make any legal arguments that supported it.
"Where have you heard that a witness is entitled to documents before they testify, your client is a witness and not a party in this matter," asked Moseneke.
Mashilane said his client was different from all the people who testified before the inquiry. "She is also considered as an accused and she might face criminal charges, hence it would be fair for her to prepare herself."
Moseneke said Manamela will be asked questions within the scope of her practice and doesn't understand why she should be entitled to documents.
He granted all legal representatives an opportunity to respond to the doctor's request.
Advocate Adila Hassim from Section 27 emphasised Moseneke's stance on the legality of Mashilane's request and also pointed that a postponement would result in costs and waste of time.
"A postponement is sought by a party to the matter, not by a subpoenaed witness."
Hassim also questioned the timing of the application.
Lawyers argued that it was too late and wanted Manamela to testify.
Manamela has been mentioned numerous times by government officials, NGOs, social workers and families as the person present when patients were moved from Esidimeni facilities.
On Tuesday, a nurse at one of the NGOs, told the hearing that they were forced to take 26 patients instead of 10 after Manamela instructed them to do so.
Former MEC of Health in Gauteng Cedani Mahlangu and her head of department, Dr Tiego Selebano, have also been subpoenaed to testify at the hearings.
The proceedings continue.