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‘Did you really care about Esidimeni patients, Dr Manamela?’

Dr Makgabo Manamela was responsible for the care and protection of rights of psychiatric patients in Gauteng.

A screengrab of Dr Makgabo Manamela, former Gauteng director of mental health, testifying during the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing on 23 November 2017. Picture: Screengrab/YouTube

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng's suspended head of mental health services Makgabo Manamela has been asked whether she cared at all about the psychiatric patients she moved from Life Esidimeni facilities to ill-equipped NGOs.

Manamela is on Thursday testifying at the arbitration hearings in Parktown after taking two days of sick leave.

Over 140 mentally ill patients died after the Gauteng Health Department terminated its contract with the Life Esidimeni group allegedly to save costs.

As director of mental health, Manamela was responsible for the care and protection of rights of psychiatric patients in Gauteng.

She was in charge of overseeing the execution of patient transfers to NGOs.

Manamela also signed NGO licenses, meaning she gave ill-equipped facilities approval to look after a very vulnerable group of society.

Retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke asked her if she really cared about these people.

“How can you consent patients to shammer under those conditions with your obligations under the statute? How could you allow that?”

Manamela responded by saying: “I said to you, at the time of evaluation, it was found suitable. And so I cannot accept it, Justice, when you say I just don’t care.”

Moseneke is also questioning Manamela about the department’s failure to pay the NGOs for months on end which put the patients in further danger.

WATCH: Manamela testifies at Esidimeni arbitration hearing

At the same time, Manamela has admitted that one of the NGOs Esidimeni patients were sent to was licensed without even having a building.

It’s emerged that Anchor House, one of the NGOs where several psychiatric patients became ill and died, was actually operating inside the premises of the Cullinan Care and Rehab Centre in Pretoria.

This is because Anchor House was given a license to operate without even having a building from which to operate.

Asked by Moseneke why this happened, Manamela blamed human error.

“We know you issued that license; the CEO of Anchor House came here and said she was never housed at Kalafong Heights. Why did you issue the license to a premise that did not exist?”

She said: “That’s correct Justice… It was just an error.”

Manamela is having a tough day on the witness stand on Thursday as Moseneke grills her about failing to execute her legal mandate to protect the rights of mentally ill people in Gauteng.

'FALSE EVIDENCE'

The suspended head of mental health services claims some witnesses who've testified at the Esidimeni hearings have lied.

Manamela says evidence given to Moseneke by many of the witnesses about her was false.

“It doesn’t mean the evidence before you is correct. If it is correct evidence, why am I here?”

She specifically pointed the finger at former chairperson of the mental health review board Dumazile Masondo.

Moseneke put it to Manamela that: “Masondo came here and told us that you said to her that they actually reported to the head of the department, she never knew that she had to supervise your decisions.”

“No, that is not true, Justice. She was untruthful.”

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)