Dr Makgabo Manamela insists that she shouldn't be blamed for the deaths of 143 patients who died after being relocated from Life Esidemeni to unlicenced NGOs in Gauteng. PHOTO: Brenda Masilela/ANA

Johannesburg - The suspended doctor who instructed patients to be transferred to unlicensed NGOs remains oblivious about the 59 patients who are still missing after being discharged from Life Esidemeni to be with their families.

The suspended director of mental health services in Gauteng, Dr Makgoba Manamela, was questioned on Monday by Advocate Lilla Crouse concerning patients who were still uncounted for. 

"What happened to the 59 people who went missing?" Crouse asked.

"What I said is what I did," Manamela responded.

"What did you do?" enquired Crouse 

"Should I explain again? What I did is what I said," Manamela responded.

Retired Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who is presiding over the arbitration hearing into the botched transfers which saw more than 140 patients die, some due to starvation and severe neglect, interjected and asked Manamela how people were tracked if their names were not recorded.

Manamela outlined how the district coordinator kept their records but insisted she doesn't not know how 59 people went missing.

"You are a public servant , you can't just give any answer that comes to your mind. These were human beings , they went missing.... You were paid to do the work, you are not doing anybody a favour," said Moseneke.

It was also heard that the National Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) wanted Manamela removed as CEO at Natalspruit hospital, but she insisted that it was because they were not happy with the human resource process.

"The unions will always complain," she said.

During the Life Esidimeni project, Manamela was in charge of issuing licenses to NGOs, and according to her, only one NGO was operating without a license. However, a subsequent investigation has revealed that several of the NGOs were unlicensed.

Some of her duties involved her going to the facilities and inspecting whether the NGO was fit for purpose to cater for mentally ill patients. Out of 27 centres, she went to only four.

At least 143 people died after they were relocated to these NGOs from Life Esidimeni.

On Monday, Manamela continued to defend herself and said that she shouldn't be blamed for the deaths.

She said she accepted that families were angry with her because she signed licenses to NGO where their loved ones died. However, she said she doesn't agree that if she hadn't issued licenses to the NGOs people wouldn't have died.

Manamela shocked the audience when she said she only realised while testifying that issuing licenses was wrong because according to her, everything was done within the law.

Advocate Dirk Groenewald, who is representing some of the families, confronted Manamela on the fact that several NGOs licensed by her did not meet legal requirements.

But Manamela disputed Groenewald's argument and insisted that she did not manipulate the licensing process.

Monday was Manamela's fourth on the witness stand and family members of some of the patients who died have vocally expressed their dissatisfaction with Manamela's consistent denial of any wrongdoing.

The hearing continues .