The much-anticipated appearance of former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu on Monday morning was marred by demonstrations. When she walked into the venue, family members sang: “Senzeni na [what have we done to you]?”
South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), Organisations Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) activists are picketing outside the venue of Life Esidimeni hearings this morning.
The demonstrators are demanding, on the main, that Mahlangu and provincial government leaders take responsibility for the tragedy that saw close to 143 mentally-ill patients die at unregistered NGOs in the province.
The number of casualties could rise, as the provincial health government has admitted that most of the patients transferred after the termination of a contract with Life Esidimeni hospital group could not be traced.
So far, most of those who testified before retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, include NGO managers and provincial health employees, and family members have blamed Mahlangu for the chaotic execution of the “marathon project”.
Former head of department Dr Barney Selebano confided to Moseneke that he had reservations about the project going ahead without feasibility studies, proper planning and budgeting, but could not register his dissatisfaction with his then political boss because he was “scared”.
The public interest generated by Mahlangu’s appearance at the alternative dispute resolution, which is expected to award monetary compensation to victims families, has created chaos outside the venue today.
Mahlangu’s appearance is expected to last most of the week, with Moseneke and the evidence leader taking her through submission. She will later face a grilling from counsel representing families from Section 27, Legal Aid as well as other interested legal formations.