Manamela forced into moving Life Esidimeni patients, court hears

Former Gauteng head of mental health, Dr Makgabo Manamela told the High Court in Pretoria that the decision to move mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni facilities was not hers, but that of then-MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

FILE: A screengrab of Dr Makgabo Manamela testifying at the Esidimeni arbitration hearing on 27 November 2017.

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng's former head of mental health, Dr Makgabo Manamela, told the High Court in Pretoria that her hands were tied and that she was forced to implement the transfer of mentally ill patients from Life Esidemeni facilities to under-resourced NGOs.

The disastrous project by the Gauteng Health Department, which was said to be a cost-cutting measure by then-MEC Qedani Mahlangu, led to the deaths of 144 people in 2016.

Many of the patients who were moved relapsed and some died of starvation, neglect and dehydration.

Manamela told the High Court in Pretoria that the decision to move mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni facilities was not hers, but that of then-MEC Mahlangu.

While cross-examining former Life Esidimeni managing director, Morgan Mkhatshwa, Manamela's advocate, Russel Sibara, told the inquiry that his client was only responsible for implementing the decision.

"When I was not involved in the taking of the decision, I never influenced the decision by the MEC was not even part of the taking of the decision to terminate the contract in the first place."

According to Manamela, executives at Life Esidimeni and clinicians raised concerns about the marathon project and she told them to raise the issue with Mahlangu.

Mkhasthwa will return to the witness stand on Wednesday where cross-examination will continue by other legal representatives.

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.