Johannesburg - Retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke who is chairing the Life Esidimeni arbitration was visibly annoyed with Dr Makgabo Manamela on Friday, after she refused to be held responsible for the 143 patients who died after a botched relocation to unlicensed NGOs.

Moseneke asked the suspended director of mental health services about her role in moving patients from Life Esidimeni to non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Manamela has been distancing herself from the project.

Moseneke asked: "In all the 43 deaths, what  was your responsibility?"

Manamela responded saying: "It was a collective decision".  

Moseneke reiterated his question again: "My question is what is your responsibility?"

Manamela responded saying: "To ensure that patients are given care and make sure no one dies."

Moseneke asked her why some patients died.

Manamela replied saying: "The post mortem will tell us what was wrong. I was not giving any nursing care to patients."

Moseneke retorted: "You have been sitting on that chair for three days and you have never even once taken responsibility of what happened. Your colleague told us how wrong things were, but you come here and deny everything.... In your evidence, you make it sound like nothing went wrong." 

Earlier, Molefi Mosenogi, the director of planning, policy and research at the Gauteng health department - who worked closely with Manamela during the project - testified before the dispute and resolution committee admitting that the tragedy could have been avoided.

"As a department, I must say we made mistakes. It should not have happened as it happened," Mosenogi said at the time.

On Friday,  Manamela defended herself and said Mosenogi was sharing his opinion and she was not obligated to agree with him.

Moseneke presented Manamela with more evidence on how wrong things were done during the moving of patients, including transporting them in bakkies.

Manamela said her colleagues were misinformed and insisted that the department organised buses to transport patients.

During the project, Manamela was in charge of issuing licenses to NGOs, and according to her,  only one NGO was operating without a license. However, it was revealed that some of the NGOs were unlicensed.

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

Moseneke asked Manamela if she knew how bad things were at the NGOs.

She struggled to answer the question with clarity.

"Answer the question, don't spend so much time on one question. It's not a game about you protecting yourself. I'm the one who will decide on your credibility," said Moseneke.

Through her testimony Manamela never admitted that she was liable for the deaths or even conceded that the deaths were occurred as a result of the move.

"What happened was a collective endeavour...All project team members have to be held responsible, even the NGOs have to take responsibility," she said

Moseneke reminded Manamela that her salary reflected her level of superiority which also indicated that she was a leader.

"You see as a leader, you take responsibility, hence you are given powers to make decisions," Moseneke said.

Manamela argued that leaders are not responsible but accountable.

The hearing continues.