Mahlangu denies being evasive, families walk out

Those who’ve testified at the Esidimeni hearings have laid the blame squarely at Qedani Mahlangu’s door, describing her as a difficult person.

FILE: Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu testifies at the Life Esidimeni hearing on 22 January 2018 in Parktown. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Despite accusations that she was arrogant and evasive, former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu insists she availed herself and was open to discussing the Esidimeni project and the unfolding crisis involving the transfer of psychiatric patients.

Mahlangu testified for a third day on Thursday at the arbitration hearings in Parktown.

She was cross-examined by a lawyer representing patients who survived the chaotic project, which resulted in the loss of 143 lives across the province.

Those who’ve testified at the Esidimeni hearings have laid the blame squarely at Mahlangu’s door, describing her as a difficult person who was evasive during the implementation of the project.

Families who entrusted the department with the lives of their loved ones, as well as doctors, wrote to Mahlangu before patients were moved to illegal NGOs, warning her about the possibility of deaths.

But Mahlangu has sought to dispute these assertions about her conduct, saying she even handed out her cellphone numbers and encouraged those who couldn’t afford to call her to send her a callback messages so she could contact them.

“I assured them that when they have issues, they must call me directly. I did not give them my personal assistant’s number and I thought this would be comfort enough, even if they send a ‘please call me’.”

This was met by much heckling from some family members who called her a liar.

Mahlangu has testified that she considers herself a warm person and doesn’t understand why people would say they feared her.

WATCH: Why didn’t we listen to our people?

Families of the victims of the Esidimeni tragedy have walked out on Mahlangu as she tried to apologise to them.

The former MEC claims she was lied to about the extent of the appalling conditions at the NGOs that received patients who were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities.

Mahlangu has also said that she quit her job because she could not trust her team anymore and could not justify getting a salary while people were dying.

But families who have branded her a liar, gave her the cold shoulder when she tried to address them on Thursday.

Mahlangu said: “It’s been a difficult exercise and I’d like to thank each and every member of the families who were represented here.”