Former MEC for health 'should be called to testify about Life Esidimeni', DG says

Johannesburg – The director-general in the Gauteng premier's office said she did not know what officials wanted to achieve by pushing through the "ill-advised" and "inhumane" decision to move mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni to a number of unlicensed NGOs.

Phindile Baleni, the director-general in David Makhura's office, told the arbitration hearing into the deaths of at least 118 former Life Esidimeni patients that the provincial government had some soul searching to do, while insisting that the former MEC for health, Qedani Mahlangu, had to appear at the hearings.

Baleni said the former MEC was "the one who committed all the wrongs", yet she hadn't been called to testify.

"She can't come and represent government when she behaved in a manner that doesn't align, that doesn't fit with how government would have treated this matter... She was the one who committed all the wrongs, she's out of the system and she was perceived as a potentially hostile witness," Baleni said, to murmurs from the family members attending the hearings.

"I do believe that she should be here," she said. "I think it is necessary for her to be brought back to come and testify or to come face charges. We will assist in whatever way we can to ensure she responds to such requests."

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Earlier, Malebona Precious Matsoso, the director-general of the national Department of Health also insisted that Mahlangu, who was not on the list of witnesses presented by the state, should testify at the hearings.

"If you are accountable, [you] should be subjected to the full force of the law. Yes, she (Mahlangu) has to account. In my opinion, I think firstly she should be part of this process and secondly, she should be part of other legal processes as well," she told the sitting.

Baleni promised the chair of the hearings, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, that the department wouldn't reach any settlements with those implicated in the decision to end the contract with Life Esidimeni. He described the decision as a "breach of the law" and a "breach of human decency".

The hearings continue on Friday.