Avatar photo

By Lunga Mzangwe


Former health head falls ill and fails to testify at Life Esdimeni hearing

Her legal team informed the court that after extensive preparations for the matter, she had experienced headaches and hearing difficulties.

Hearings in the Life Esidimeni inquest had to be postponed today after a former senior official in the department of health allegedly fell ill hours before she was due to give evidence.

Former Gauteng health director Dr Makgabo Manamela on Tuesday failed to appear before the High Court in Pretoria to begin her testimony.

Her legal team informed the court that after extensive preparations for the matter, she had experienced headaches and hearing difficulties.

This comes after Judge Jowie Teffo refused to grant Manamela a postponement to next Monday. Her lawyer, advocate Russell Sibara said Manamela was indisposed.

“We prepared extensively [on Monday] to get ready. Unfortunately, we had to terminate our preparation at night around 11pm because our client experienced some difficulties in hearing.

“She was having serious headaches, and in view of that we terminated the preparation,” said Sibara. He said Manamela’s condition persisted into the early hours of today, hours before she was due to testify.

“I spoke to her around 2am [on Tuesday] because we had to finalise our evidence notes which we want to upload into case lines.

“I finalised that document around 1am this morning and e-mailed it to the client around after 2am. “She could not access it because we were having difficulties hearing each other.

“She was having a bit of hearing challenges and headaches, in view of that she’s indisposed to give evidence.”

He asked the court to postpone the matter to today as they anticipated her condition would improve, a request which the presiding judge granted.

“We are going to communicate with the evidence leaders so that if possible her evidence notes documents can be uploaded into case lines to assist other colleagues to follow her.”

Teffo said nothing much could be done about Manamela’s situation and expressed concern at the continued delays in getting her testimony.

“This is the situation we find ourselves in. On this note, I think we can remand the proceedings until tomorrow. The proceedings are adjourned until tomorrow for the availability of Dr Manamela.”

The mandate of the hearings is to investigate who, if anyone, should be held criminally liable for the deaths of the patients.

The deaths occurred after the patients were moved to ill-equipped NGOs in 2016 and 144 mentally ill patients died.

Advocate Craig Watt-Pringle, for former Gauteng health head Dr Barney Selebano, said: “We just hope that her condition improves so she can testify [on Wednesday]”.

Advocate WF Pienaar suggested that Sibara communicate with the evidence leaders by midday today to indicate whether Manamela would be available or not for today’s proceedings.

Delays in getting Manamela’s testimony ‘concerning’

Last week, Teffo refused to grant Manamela another postponement in the Life Esidimeni inquest proceedings.

Teffo raised concerns about the repeated delays in getting Manamela’s testimony under way. Manamela was granted a postponement last month after her legal representatives argued she was not ready to face the inquest.

During the inquest in 2018, Hanna Jacobus, the former deputy director within the mental health directorate at the Gauteng department of health, told the court that she disregarded the legal processes when licensing NGOs for the project.

She claimed she had been forced to do so by her former boss, Manamela. Selebano and former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu are expected to give evidence in October and November.

ALSO READ: Fears of another Life Esidimeni as government decides to relocate disabled patients at care home

Read more on these topics

Department of Health LIfe Esidimeni

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits