Johannesburg - Suspended Gauteng health head of the department Dr Barney Selebano revealed that the pressure to move patients to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) came from former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.
Selebano made these revelations during his first appearance before the Life Esidimeni alternative dispute resolution.
He had tried to avoid appearing before the hearing by challenging a subpoena ordering him to do so.
This was scuppered when the Joburg High Court dismissed with costs his urgent application to set aside the subpoena.
Acting Judge Daniel Berger had ruled that Selebano had failed to establish a basis on which the subpoena can be challenged.
He then applied for leave, but this too was denied with costs by Berger.
Appearing before arbitration chair, retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, Selebano testified that he first became aware of issues with the project around July/August 2016.
"There were reports coming from the media and the Democratic Alliance (DA). That's when I knew there were problems.
"I got to know that patients who had been moved from Esidimeni had demised.
Selebano then revealed that he got in touch with the Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, who called for immediate intervention to prevent further deaths.
There was then a scramble to move patients from the NGOs, with Selebano adding that he personally shut down the NGOs where patients died.
These included Precious Angels, Siyabadinga, Siyabathanda and Bakang among others.
Grilled on where the pressure to move patients to NGOs came from, Selebano admitted that it came from those implementing the project as well as former MEC Mahlangu.
Selebano was also questioned on the "fit for purpose" of some of the NGOs as well who was in charge of the marathon project.
The matter continues.