Life Esidimeni inquest resumes with focus on patient Sizwe Hlatshwayo's death

The hearing focused on one of 144 mental health care users who passed away after they were moved from Life Esidimeni centres to NGOs.

Dr Richard Lebethe (R) testifying at the Life Esidimeni Inquest on 9 September 2021. Picture: Judiciary RSA/YouTube screengrab.

JOHANNESBURG - The cross-examination of Dr Richard Lebethe continues in the High Court sitting in Pretoria on Friday, with some focus on Sizwe Hlatshwayo.

Hlatshwayo was one of 144 mental healthcare users who passed away after they were moved from Life Esidimeni centres to NGOs.

On Thursday, Lebethe said he had visited Hlatshwayo’s family to request that they allow for a post-mortem to be done.

He said it was then established that Hlatshwayo died from pneumonia in September 2016.

Asked if he believed Hlatshwayo could have acquired the infection during the move, Lebethe said he didn’t.

“Mr Hlatshwayo passed on around the 10th of September, which was summer, and the movement happened around April, May. So, yes, there was pneumonia, but that one cannot directly be linked to the movement,” Lebethe said.

Lebethe agrees that inspections should have been done to ensure that facilities receiving Life Esidimeni patients were compliant.

He said that retrospectively, the transfer of more than 1,400 to NGOs could have been done better.

"Dr Lebethe, would you agree that failure to ensure compliance inured to the detriment of healthcare users?" Lebethe was asked.

Lebethe replied: "Retrospectively it has shown that, yes."

He repeatedly said that he was not directly involved in the project when it started.

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