Johannesburg - The panel sitting at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings into the deaths of 143 mentally ill patients on Monday, heard that former Gauteng health Member of the Executive Council (MEC) Qedani Mahlangu failed to inform legislature about the challenges which were at the one of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
During cross examination by advocate Adila Hassim for Section 27, Mahlangu was asked why she failed to respond to a letter from Section 27 regarding problems at one of the NGOs, Precious Angels.
”Why didn’t you revert to indicate your availability to meet urgently," asked Hassim.
Mahlangu said she tasked someone at the department to look at the letter and follow up but doesn't recall who it was.
"I'm not sure who I asked to look at this letter and the facts."
Hassim retorted: "Did you follow up with any of the officials to ask if they reverted to Section 27?"
Mahlangu said she could not answer the question.
"At this moment I cannot give you an answer," she said.
Hassim asked Mahlangu to explain why she did not raise issues around Precious Angels at the legislature. Mahlangu said she does not recall what happened and requested to go check with the provincial health department and before responding on Wednesday when the arbitration resumes.
Hassim continued and referred Mahlangu to an email where Mahlangu was responding to a letter sent by South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) concerning issues at Precious Angels.
On her response, Mahlangu instructed Dr Richard Lebethe, former director of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela and former head of the mental health department Dr Barney Selebano to get legal representatives to deal with the letter citing that the NGOs were dishonest.
The SADAG letter raised concerns about Precious Angels, they indicated shortage of medication at various NGOs and the poor quality of facilities.
Retired chief justice Dikgang Moseneke asked Mahlangu why she labelled SADAG as dishonest. She said does not remember the circumstances which led her to say that.
To this, she also asked Moseneke to give her some time to find out what happened and she will come back with an answer on Wednesday.
Moseneke asked Mahlangu why she had not raised issues from Section 27 and SADAG to the legislature.
"What you told the legislature and what turned out to be true was different," said Moseneke.
Mahlangu said she relied on information provided to her by Manamela and Selebano and she realised only later that they were misleading her.
"Why would Selebano and Manamela lie to you so openly," asked Moseneke looking puzzled.
Mahlangu responded saying: "I really don’t know, justice".
Hassim asked Mahlangu about the steps she took to verify the information given by Manamela and Selebano before presenting it to the legislature.
"I had no reason to believe it wasn't correct... When I am told things are okay, then I take it as such," she replied.
Hassim asked why she ignored warnings from civil organisations. Mahlangu said she didn't deal with all the correspondence personally but delegated some duties as it was impossible to handle everything at once.
She insisted that she never misled legislature and gave them information which was at her disposal.
"But you didn't give them all the information at your disposal," said Hassim.
Mahlangu responded saying: "At the time of presenting the answer to the legislation, I was made to believe the information was correct".
African News Agency/ANA