Dr Makgabo Manamela, the mental health director for Gauteng health department, has quit her job.
Manamela is the bureaucrat at the centre of Life Esidimeni scandal where over 140 mental health patients died after being transferred to ill-equipped NGOs. This is after the department terminated a contract with Life Esidimeni hospital group.
During the arbitration hearings chaired by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke in December, Manamela was combative for most part of the testimony and refused to take personal responsibility for the tragedy.
Her responses were peppered with excuses and at times told Moseneke that the entire value chain of mental health decision-making officials in the department should equally shoulder the blame for tragic death of patients.
Some of those patients transfered to NGOs remain untraceable and therefore the department is unable to state factually whether they are dead or alive. Some relatives of the victims claimed that Manamela called them each time after they had granted media interviews to news agencies and in one case is said to have admonished one family for exposing the calamity as this will cost her a “bonus” she was expecting in 2016.
During the testimony, she was also grilled on the reasons why she was fired, or recalled, as the CEO of Natalspruit Hospital by the panel of lawyers as well as Moseneke himself. Manamela’s resignation follows that of another deparmental official Dr Barney Selebano who handed his resignation to the Premier of the province David Makhura yesterday.
Her PhD thesis in psychiatric nursing, awarded by the University of Johannesburg in 2005, examines nurses’ attitudes to Aids patients before antiretroviral treatment was widely available in government hospitals.
This was during the infamous “AIDS denialism” era when the late health minister Dr Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang advocated for the use of African potato, garlic and beetroot as replacement for “toxic” ARVs.
This is a developing story.