Johannesburg - A formal inquest into the tragic deaths of 144 of Life Esidimeni’s psychiatric patients which started on Monday, will continue today and is set to hear from potentially implicated witnesses.
The inquest will determine whether officials involved could be criminally liable for the deaths of the patients.
State advocate, Tebogo Hutamo, told the court on Wednesday that he was representing several former and current government officials and this could lead to conflicting evidence.
The inquest was subsequently postponed to Friday after Judge Mmonoa Teffo, who is chairing the virtual hearing at the Pretoria high court, said that those implicated had two days secure legal representation.
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Advocate Adila Hassim, who represents the families on behalf of Section 27, a public interest law centre, said in her opening statement earlier this week that the deaths were not natural but rather caused unlawfully and negligently by the employees of the Gauteng Health Department.
"It is the task of this inquest to name those individuals who are responsible. The responsible officials were warned of the consequences of the transfer of mental health-care users but did not heed the many warnings," she said.
The provincial health department transferred the patients in 2016 from Life Esidimeni to various unlicensed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that were not equipped to care for the patients.
Five years after the tragedy, families from the deceased have called on former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, former head of health Dr Barney Selebano and former director of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela to be brought forward to the inquiry."