Deadline for Life Esidimeni transfers was non-negotiable - Mosenogi

Levy Mosenogi told the court that he and his colleagues who were part of the project faced significant pressure to ensure it was implemented no matter the circumstances.

FILE: State witness Levy Mosenogi, the Gauteng Health Department Chief Director of planning, policy and research, testifies during the Life Esidimeni arbitration process. Picture: Masego Rahlaga/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - A Gauteng health official has told the Life Esidimeni inquest that despite concerns raised and requests for an extension, the deadline for the relocation project was non-negotiable.

Levy Mosenogi was the project head and has this week been testifying at the official hearings into the tragedy.

The formal inquest is investigating whether anyone should be held criminally liable for the deaths of over 140 mentally ill patients after they were moved to ill-equipped NGOs in 2016.

Mosenogi said he and his colleagues were told the decision to terminate the Life Esidimeni contract could not be reversed.

"Basically, I think the main thing that was driving me and most of us was that the deadline was no longer negotiable," he said.

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Mosenogi said they were worried what would happen to the mentally ill patients come the end of June 2016 with no proper plans in place.

"At the end of June, there won't be people to cook for the patients, there won't be cleaners, there won't be security. So for me, that was the pressures we were encountering," he said.

He also told the court that he and his colleagues who were part of the project faced significant pressure to ensure it was implemented no matter the circumstances.

"We needed to have done proper due diligence, something we've done when taking services from the municipalities."

Mosenogi said despite not being ready, they had to ensure that patients were out of the Life Esidimeni facilities by June 2016.

"It was a difficult thing. If you don't achieve the deadline, what happens to the patients?"

The health official told the court people were afraid of then MEC Qedani Mahlangu, describing her as a difficult person to deal with.

Earlier this week, Mosenogi told the court how the disastrous project gave him stress and sleepless nights.