Cheryl Kahla
Deputy Online News Editor
2 minute read
23 Jul 2021
3:49 pm

Life Esidimeni inquest postponed again, this time so ‘legal reps can prepare’

Cheryl Kahla

Legal counsel requested more time to prepare when it became 'apparent that some parties had not been properly represented'.

Protests during the testimony of former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings in 2018. Photo: Gallo Images/Sowetan/Thulani Mbele

The Life Esidimeni inquest has been postponed second time this week “following concerns that newly appointed legal counsel for potentially implicated people in the inquest have not had adequate time to prepare”. 

An inquest into the death of 144 patients who lost their lives between April 2016 and January 2017 due to neglect, dehydration and hunger began on Monday, five years after the tragedy first made headlines.

Life Esidimeni inquest postponed again

On Tuesday, NGOs and some government officials – including Dr Makgabo Manamela – secured legal representation during the adjournment, Section 27 reported.

Judge Mmonoa Teffo postponed proceedings until 2 August 2021, when advocate Shavhani Russel Sibara requested more time to familiarise himself with the proceedings.

Sibara said he received a call from the state attorney’s office “last night at 8.30pm, and only managed to communicate with my client throughout the better part of the night”.

“I don’t have access to the case line, and I don’t have the list of witnesses.”

Next court date

Teffo said it had become apparent during the inquest that some parties had not been properly represented, and allowed additional time for the matter to be rectified.

“​​​​Parties who have just obtained legal representation should be afforded the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the proceedings and consult with their legal representatives,” Teffo stated. 

The hearing into the deaths of at least 144 mentally ill patients, after they were moved to dodgy NGOs by the Gauteng health department, began on Monday.

ALSO READ: New information to be presented at Life Esidimeni inquest

Inquest versus arbitration

As reported earlier, the inquest “is different to the Life Esidimeni arbitration process that was led by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, which sought to determine what happened to the patients”.

The North Gauteng High Court will consider if anyone should be held criminally liable for the Life Esidimeni deaths, presided over by Teffo.

The accused will be held criminally accountable and face charges of culpable homicide, as well as assault with the intent to cause bodily harm and the contravention of the Mental Health Act.

NOW READ: Life Esidimeni inquest shows why ‘mental health must be taken seriously’