Life Esidimeni inquest continues on Wednesday
The Pretoria High Court is on Wednesday expected to continue hearing evidence in the inquest into the deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients. It is understood that 36 witnesses have been scheduled to give evidence in the inquest that’s expected to continue for several weeks.
The inquest is aimed at determining whether anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths after the Gauteng Department of Health transferred the patients from Life Esidimeni to ill-equipped non-government organizations in 2016.
In September, former Deputy Director-General of Clinical Services in the Gauteng Health Department, Dr Richard Lebethe told the inquest that former Gauteng Health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu was alerted to the concerns of possible relapse of patients, prior to the transfer, if quickly moved to unfamiliar environment.
During cross-examination, Dr Lebethe told lawyers of the families of the deceased that Mahlangu was the first person to tell him about the deaths.
Dr Lebethe also told the court that the bodies of deceased patients were only handed to the families for burial once post-mortems were conducted.
Former leader for the Life Esidimeni Transfer Project, Levy Mosenogi said engagements between former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and families of Life Esidimeni healthcare users were at times characterised by anger and dissolution.
Mosenogi is the fourth witness to testify on the transfer of mentally challenged patients from Life Esidimeni centers to other facilities.
The facilities were ultimately shut down by Mahlangu. Mosenogi said families and employees at Life Esidimeni were unhappy with the relocations.
“It was tough even for me, so when the MEC came in she decided to take over the chair, she could see that I wasn’t coping. The people were not satisfied with the closure of Waverly. They raised issues and the MEC responded but they were not happy with the response. They didn’t like the responses. There were so many issues raised. They were not happy about the closure of the facility. It was very tough. People were complaining and raising their voices.
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