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Lawyers sue Qedani Mahlangu over Esidimeni

Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu owes more than R1.5m to the lawyers who represented her at the Life Esidimeni arbitration.
Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu owes more than R1.5m to the lawyers who represented her at the Life Esidimeni arbitration.
Image: Alon Skuy

The Life Esidimeni ghosts that have been spooking former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu are now gnawing at the prominent politician's finances.

Sunday World can reveal that Mahlangu's lawyers JL Raphiri Attorneys who represented her at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings, have turned against her over her alleged failure to settle the more than R1.5m legal bill they put on her doorsteps for the services they rendered. 

The lawyers this week applied for a court order at the South Gauteng high court that she pays the bill and threatened to apply for a default judgment against her if she failed to defend the action timeously.

According to papers seen by Sunday World, the lawyers charged Mahlangu R119,895 for the arbitration, R1,284,664.50 for application for review and R161,160.00 for appearances, but she allegedly refused to pay and apparently ignored several invoices.

"The plaintiff claim payment for the sum of R1,565 ,719.50 being an amount owing to the plaintiff by the defendant in respect of professional legal services rendered on the defendant's instructions and request during January 20 2018 to November 1 2018, which amount is now due and payable to the plaintiff.

"Despite the demand, the defendant neglects, refuses and/or fails to pay the amount claimed," read the papers.

She also allegedly ignored a letter of demand they sent to her on January 2. The letter reads in part: "It is our instructions that our client, JL Raphiri Attorneys, was appointed and instructed by you to render professional legal services to you on Life Esidimeni arbitration on or during 20 January 2018 to November 2018.

"It is our further instructions that the aforementioned legal services were rendered to the value of R1,565,719.50. Invoices were sent to your offices and have to date remained unpaid.

"Should you fail to make payment within 14 days of receipt hereof, we are instructed to issue summons and thereafter apply for summary judgment against you without further notice to your offices."

The quantum was likely to skyrocket as the lawyers were demanding that Mahlangu pay interest and costs.

"Interest on the amount of R1,565,719.50, at applicable rate per annum from the date of service of summons to date of final payment. Costs of the suit and further and or alternative relief," read the papers.

The arbitration, which was chaired by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, was set up by the government to investigate the death of 144 psychiatric patients who died after they were moved from the Life Esidimeni mental hospital to various NGOs in Gauteng.

The arbitration heard that most of these NGOs were either operating illegally or did not meet the requirements to care for mentally ill patients.

Mahlangu was subpoenaed to appear at the arbitration to account for the death of the patients.

She declined to comment when Sunday World offered her an opportunity to state her side of the story.

Attempts to solicit comment from the lawyers drew a blank.

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