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Ex-manager in Esidimeni marathon project breaks down at inquest

Karabo Ledwaba Journalist
Families of patients who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy sing outside the venue where arbitration hearings took place in 2018.
Families of patients who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy sing outside the venue where arbitration hearings took place in 2018.
Image: Thulani Mbele

A witness in the Life Esidimeni inquest burst into tears on Tuesday after relaying his fears of the potential harm that could be inflicted on disabled children if they were moved from a specialist care centre to ill-equipped NGOs. 

Former project manager of the Life Esidimeni marathon project Levy Mosenogi told the court that he was aware of the potential crisis that could occur if severely disabled children were moved like adult mental healthcare patients.

Mosenogi was under cross-examination by Adv Teneille Govender, a lawyer for former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu. Govender asked Mosenogi that if he saw the potential crisis of moving children, why was he not as outspoken as he was in the case of Baneng Care Centre whose closure he said would  be disastrous.

“The Baneng situation was different because there were severely disabled people who would be lying in bed and couldn't even wake up. Because of what I saw in Baneng, it reflected back because my younger brother was admitted and severely disabled... I would sit with him and when I wanted to leave he would bite or hold on to me. That's why I fought so much for Baneng not to be closed,” he said.

The inquest, which is back after a six-week adjournment, aims to determine if anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 mental health patients who died from neglect.  

Mosenogi said after joining the marathon project in December 2015, he realised that there was not enough time to move patients and he brought this to the attention of Mahlangu.

“I did not want to quit because it would have been worse. My greatest fear was that I would be stuck with patients with nowhere to go. It kept me awake at night, maybe I should have gone to higher authorities,” he said.

He said he raised the issue of the rushed marathon project with some of his branch members in the ANC for guidance where he was a chairperson at the time. He asked his prayer group to pray for him and the department of health.

“I described the pressure I'm facing with a project that seems not to be going the right way and my concerns about the project. I asked them to pray for me and the department because this thing was heavy on me.”

Mosenogi said he did not raise the issue with the premier or the minister of health.

Judge Mmonoa Teffo ordered an adjournment to allow Mosenogi to pull himself together.

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