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Mahlangu disputes Health Ombudsman's findings against her

Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba found that Qedani Mahlangu’s decision to terminate the contract with Esidimeni had been rushed and negligent.

A screengrab of former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu gives testimony at the Esidimeni arbitration hearing in Johannesburg on 22 January 2018.

JOHANNESBURG - Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has told the Esidimeni arbitration hearings that she doesn’t agree with the findings made against her by the Health Ombudsman.

Mahlangu was testifying at the hearings in Parktown on Monday after being criticised by the ombudsman for her role in the deaths of psychiatric patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni to unlicensed NGOs.

She began her testimony with an apology to the families of the 143 mentally ill people who died and over 1,000 more who survived.

Mahlangu says the Gauteng Health Department’s former head doctor Barney Selebano and its former director of mental health services doctor Makgabo Manamela gave her and Premier David Makhura false information about the Esidimeni project.

She avoided the question of whether she accepted the findings against her by Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba for some time but eventually answered Section 27’s Adila Hassim.

“Yes, he did make findings against me. I do not agree with the findings relating to me and my role.”

Makgoba found that Mahlangu’s decision to terminate the contract with Life Esidimeni had been rushed, irrational and negligent.

But Mahlangu says that move was not hers alone and was, in fact, a collective decision made by executive members of the provincial government.

This is the first time Mahlangu has spoken publicly about the findings.

She resigned on the eve of the release of Makgoba’s damning report.

LISTEN: Qedani Mahlangu: I sincerely apologise

Mahlangu says she initiated the health ombudsman's investigation into the Esidimeni tragedy because she was concerned about the death toll.

She says at the time, in September 2016, she was told by her team that 36 people had died; that number has now risen to 143.

The former MEC says she asked Makgoba to investigate but he was reluctant.

“Less than 24 hours after providing the answers in the legislature, I contacted Professor Makgoba, the ombudsman, requesting him to assist the department with the investigation of the causes of death of the 36 patients.”

Mahlangu says she was concerned about patients’ well-being at the NGOs, which were licensed unlawfully.

Asked why she needed the ombudsman, she said: “Because I was concerned that 36 people died and there seems not to be a clear explanation. Precious Angels alone had 18 people.”