Mahlangu: I can't remember – can I come back to you?

Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu appears before the Esidimeni arbitration hearings probing the deaths of at least 143 mentally ill patients.
Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu appears before the Esidimeni arbitration hearings probing the deaths of at least 143 mentally ill patients.
Image: ALON SKUY

Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has asked for more time to answer questions about the court case central to allowing the Life Esidimeni saga to progress.

Mahlangu was under cross-examination about her role as the most senior person in charge the Life Esidimeni move that led to the deaths of 143-mentally ill patients.

Section 27 advocate Adila Hassim asked her about the court case that the Gauteng Health department won‚ allowing the transfer of 1‚700 patients to begin.

Mahlangu said only that she remembers "something like that".

SA Depression and Anxiety Group and Section 27 entered into a settlement with the Gauteng Department of Health in December‚ 2015‚ in which the department assured the NGOs it would keep them updated on plans to move the 1‚700 Life Esidimeni patients and to ensure NGOs used for placement were suitable.

When about 50 patients were about to be discharged in March‚ the NGOs approached the court to urgently stop the moves as they were in breach of the settlement. But the Department of Health said the patients were ready to be "discharged" from care.

This was later said to be a lie by a psychiatrist - during the Esidimeni hearings.

The adult patients were also moved into Takalani‚ a home for intellectually disabled children.

Mahlangu said she didn’t remember if the fact severely mentally ill adults were moved in with vulnerable children was brought to her attention.

At Takalani home‚ two patients got typhoid due to poor hygiene and there was one unconfirmed report of a rape of a mute female patient.

Mahlangu was asked how many patients died at Takalani.

She didn't know.

She asked for more time to read up on Takalani incidents.

Hassim told her she had had time to prepare for the hearings last year: "The reason we are still sitting here is because we waited for you."

The hearings did not wrap up last year as planned because Mahlangu needed to come from London to testify.

Hassim asked her if she prepared for her testimony. "Did you read the transcripts?"

Mahlangu said: "I am trying my utmost best."

Hassim then asked her if she had read the families' testimonies about their experiences and losses.

Mahlangu said: "I can't exactly remember."

Moseneke then repeated the question. “Did you read all of those [family testimonies]?”

Mahlangu answered: "Can I come back to you tomorrow?"

Mahlangu said there was a lot from the hearings to read.

"I am trying my best."

Families heckled her again in anger much to the displeasure of the judge.

The hearing continues.

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