Dr Barney Selebano asks to visit victims' homes

Former Gauteng health department head Dr Barney Selebano showed remorse during the Life Esidimeni Arbitrations hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg, as he also apologised for his role. / Alaister Russell
Former Gauteng health department head Dr Barney Selebano showed remorse during the Life Esidimeni Arbitrations hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg, as he also apologised for his role. / Alaister Russell

Former Gauteng health head of department Dr Barney Selebano has reached out to the families of the Life Esidimeni victims, requesting a meeting with them.

Selebano, who resigned from the department last week, a month after testifying in the arbitration hearings, made the plea in a letter his lawyers addressed to the families.

Sowetan understands Selebano intends to meet the families at their homes after the arbitration hearings into the deaths of 143 mental patients is concluded.

The hearings which are being led by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke are expected to resume today with disgraced former MEC Qedani Mahlangu still in the hot seat.

The existence of the letter, part of which Sowetan has seen, was also read into record during the hearings last week.

"Following our client's undertaking made at the end of his testimony at the Life Esidimeni Arbitration on 08 December 2017 regarding his intention to meet with the families of the deceased... It is our client's instruction that we extend an invitation to help facilitate the proposed meetings with the families," the letter read.

Yesterday, Selebano confirmed having extended an invitation to meet with the families but declined to comment further, saying he could not discuss it until the arbitration process was closed.

Christine Nxumalo, who is a member of a committee representing the families, said so far the responses have been positive.

Nxumalo said each family would have to decide how the engagements with Selebano would help them find closure.

"Each family will come into the process with their own expectations. I cannot speak on their behalf," she said.

During his testimony Selebano, who signed off the transfer of patients from Life Esidimeni psychiatric facilities to some unlicensed NGOs, said he had acted on Mahlangu's instructions and that he was afraid of defying her orders.

After being questioned on the stand for hours Selebano unravelled, admitting that the NGOs where unfit and that patients had died as a result of negligence.

Selebano also said he took responsibility for what happened under his watch.

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