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Selebano excused from attending Esidimeni hearing pending judgment

Dr Barney Selebano is fighting a subpoena issued to him by the State, compelling him to give testimony at the hearings.

FILE: Dr Barney Selebano. Picture: health.gpg.gov.za

JOHANNESBURG - The State has argued an application brought by the suspended Gauteng Health HOD to grant him reprieve from testifying at the Life Esidimeni hearings has no legal grounds.

Dr Barney Selebano is fighting a subpoena issued to him by the State, compelling him to give testimony at the hearings.

He played a key role in the disastrous project which resulted in the deaths of 143 psychiatric patients.

The lawyer representing Selebano has argued on Wednesday that his client is being subjected to a commission of inquiry and not an arbitration hearing.

Craig Watt-Pringle is trying to convince Judge Daniel Berger that the process is not an arbitration because there is no dispute, as the government has already said it takes responsibility for the deaths of 143 mentally ill people.

However, State attorney William Mokhari disagrees, saying the doctor is simply refusing to assist the arbitrator.

“We see nothing of substance that this court will accept that he has discharged the owners that this is an abuse of a process for him to be subpoenaed. As a result, My Lord, we submit that this court should dismiss this application.”

Mokhari has argued that there is no prescribed format to conduct an arbitration, adding that all parties agreed that the process would carry on as it has been since it started early last month.

If the judge is convinced by Selebano's argument, it would mean the subpoena is not valid as it would not fall under the Arbitration Act.

Selebano was supposed to testify on Monday but Berger says he should be excused pending the outcome of his decision.

“My suggestion is that, without limiting myself without prejudging anything, I direct that Dr Selebano is excused from attending until I’ve handed down my judgment.”

Judgment has been reserved until Monday.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)