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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

‘I knew I was going into a lion’s den,’ says Qedani Mahlangu on Gauteng health deployment

She said then premier David Makhura redeployed her to the department to 'sort out the finances'.

Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu says she knew she was being thrown into “a lion’s den” when she was redeployed back to the Health Department in 2014.

Mahlangu appeared before the Life Esidimeni inquest in the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The hearing will determine whether anyone can be held criminally liable after 144 mental health patients died after they were transferred from Life Esidimeni to other NGOs.

Gauteng health finances

Testifying on Tuesday, Mahlangu, who was appointed as MEC for Health and Social Development from May 2009 to November 2010 and again from May 2014 to January 2017, said she knew her second stint in the position would be challenging due to the department’s finances.

“The Department of Health, even when I came in 2009, the state of finances was really bad to a point where on my arrival – I was given a report by the AG, commissioned by Scopa in the Gauteng legislature, about the happenings of the finances in the Health Department,” said Mahlangu.

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“The impact of those difficulties at the time, the department was receiving disclaimers and adverse audit opinion.

“We worked hard in ensuring we appoint people and that civil servants were appointed on a permanent basis so that the responsibilities goes back to them. After that process, we were able to get a qualified audit opinion in the 2010/11 financial year.”

2014 financial position

While the state of finances had not improved when she left the department in 2010, the situation was worse when she returned in 2014.

“When I came back in 2014 the situation had gone worse in that, I knew very well that things were not very good even when I was deployed.

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“In the 2012/13 financial year in December, the provincial government took a decision for the Health Department to be assisted and supported by National Treasury.”

She said then premier, David Makhura, redeployed her to the department to “sort out the finances”.

“You’re not leaving health until the finances are resolved,” he told her.

She went back against her better judgement, adding she told him it was “not fair” to be sent back to a department that was not in good standing financially.

“I broke down. I was very uncomfortable because, through the executive council, I knew that things had gone from frying pan to fire, in terms of finances.

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“I got sworn in and went home, and cried because I knew that I was going into a lion’s den.”

Things got better after appointing Saica to help the department finally receive an unqualified audit report.

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