Johannesburg - Gauteng health head of department Barney Selebano, who accepted responsibility for the deaths of more than 140 mentally ill patients, has resigned with immediate effect.

Department spokesperson Lesemang Matuka confirmed that Selebano handed in his resignation on Monday.

Matuka would only say that the department received Selebano’s resignation letter.

“HODs are appointed by the premier [David Makhura]. His resignation will be processed by the Office of the Premier,” Matuka said.

Selebano appeared before the arbitration hearings into the deaths of 143 mentally ill patients in Johannesburg last year.

This was after his plea to the high court to have his subpoena set aside failed.

During the hearing, Selebano said he accepted responsibility for the deaths and that he was scared to act against former MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

Mahlangu, who is yet to testify at the hearings, said hundreds of mentally ill patients were removed from Life Esidimeni Healthcare centres to save money.

Selebano and Mahlangu were some of the officials who were singled out in health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba’s report into the deaths that the patients were moved to unreliable to unlicensed non-governmental organisations across the province.

Some of the patients died of hunger, dehydration and negligence.

DA Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Blom welcomed Selebano’s resignation, saying “although it was inevitable that he would have been fired following the conclusion of disciplinary measures for his role in the Esidimeni tragedy”.

“This is not sufficient accountability, however, and he should face criminal charges in a court of law along with former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and other implicated officials.

“His resignation clears the way for the appointment of a new head for this troubled department which desperately needs strong leadership to fix budgetary problems and provide quality healthcare to all patients," Bloom said.

The Star