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'I know myself to be a very warm person’

Former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu says she heard, for the first time during these hearings senior department officials were all afraid of her.

FILE: Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu gives testimony at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing in Johannesburg on 22 January 2018. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Disgraced former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has told the Esidmeni hearings she believes she is a very warm person and doesn’t understand why senior department officials claimed in their testimony, that they were afraid of her.

Mahlangu is testifying for a second day at the arbitration hearings in Parktown.

She's being grilled about her role in the Esidimeni tragedy, which resulted in the deaths of at least 143 mentally ill people who were transferred to unlicensed NGOs.

Mahlangu says she heard, for the first time during these hearings that former Gauteng health HOD Barney Selebano, former director of mental health services Makgabo Manamela, her deputy Hannah Jacobus and chief director for planning and policy research Levy Mosenogi were all afraid of her.

The group all testified before Mahlangu started giving evidence, saying she was difficult to deal with and unapproachable.

But Mahlangu says she doesn’t understand this.

She says she believes that, had officials been unhappy with her conduct, they had ample opportunity to report her to the premier but they never did so.

“Every time when we had a meeting they came to meetings and all of a sudden they say they were scared of me. At no stage, did I sense or have a suspicion that people were scared of me. I know myself to be a very warm person."

Mahlangu says she doesn’t understand why the department’s former head would tell the Esidimeni arbitration hearings that he was afraid of her when he was protected by the law and had ample opportunity to report her for wrongdoing to the premier but never did so.

Mahlangu says Selebano, as HOD at the time, never showed her any signs that he was afraid of her.

“At no stage was I aware that the HOD was afraid of me.

“The Public Finance Management Act protects officials from undue influence from politicians when it says: 'If you are given an instruction that is unlawful, file a document and let the politician put it in writing to you so that you protect yourself'.”

Selebano resigned from his position as HOD early this month.

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