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Dr Selebano: I’m ashamed of Esidimeni tragedy

Doctor Barney Selebano apologised for his role in the project which led to the deaths of 143 mentally ill people.

Doctor Barney Selebano giving his testimony at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in Parktown. Picture: YouTube.

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng health’s suspended head of the department says he’s ashamed of the Esidimeni tragedy and realises that traumatised South Africans no longer trust the public health system.

Doctor Barney Selebano was given the chance to give closing remarks after his testimony at the arbitration hearings in Parktown on Friday afternoon.

He apologised for his role in the project which led to the deaths of 143 mentally ill people.

“I’m standing up justice… but actually, I want to kneel in front of the families, to show humility.”

WATCH: Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings

Emotional scenes played out as Selebano asked for forgiveness from families, admitting that he and other Gauteng health officials failed to protect their loved ones.

While he spoke - only a few people managed to hold back their tears, as families, journalists and even retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke started to cry.

Selebano says the negligence that played out in the deadly Esidimeni project is shameful.

“This tragedy has raised a question: were you a caring government? It has killed that [caring government notion] because I led men and women, doctors and professors of high integrity. But this has completely decimated that”

He says he understands the anger that families of the victims are feeling.

“To the families… you have every right not to forgive us. You have every right to look angrily at us and say we’ve lost our loved ones. And that’s why I kept on saying you can’t explain this, in short, we made a mess.”

SELEBANO WANTS TO MEET FAMILIES

Selebano has indicated he wants to visit the families of psychiatric patients from Life Esidimeni to personally apologise to them for his role in the deaths of their loved ones.

Selebano asked Section 27 to help him meet the families.

The civil society organisation is one of those that helped the families in their attempts to interdict the transfers and is also providing them with legal representation.

Selebano says he knows it may not be easy but he wants to visit these families.

“I want to find an opportunity to go to the families, away from the media, and humble myself… and say, mama, I’ve brought you a lot of pain. I know what might happen, they’ll say 'don’t come into our house, get out'. I resolve in my heart that if they do that I will go back again.”

Friday was the last day of the hearings for the year, which are expected to resume in January with the much-anticipated testimony of former MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)