When the Life Esidimeni tragedy was laid bare by the findings of health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba earlier this year, the chief whip of the ANC in the Gauteng legislature, Brian Hlongwa, spoke to Power FM’s Onkgopotse ‘JJ’ Tabane on his midnight show.
It was during that interview that the first hint of Qedani Mahlangu’s future whereabouts was dropped. Hlongwa mentioned “exile” and a timeframe of two years.
He kicked off the interview by reminding listeners that he himself had been dogged by allegations of corruption.
“The tragedy that we have experienced happened also under my watch, I am putting myself under the eye of the storm. I am not the spokesperson of David Makhura. I was once a minister, an MEC of health from 2006-09 in Gauteng. There is a cloud hanging over my head. I am supposed to be somebody who is corrupt as well. It has been nine years. But there is no case.”
He defended Makhura’s statements that he was in the dark about the shenanigans going on at the health department.
“The point you raised as an activist yourself is that you can not fathom or comprehend how David Makhura could say he didn’t know. I want to share my personal story with you, JJ. The department is second only to education, it’s a massive institution. I am not a clinician, from cardiology to psychiatry. It’s a huge institution.”
He said upon hearing of the number of patients who had passed on, close to 100 at the time, Makhura had wept.
“Here is a point. I had a private moment with David Makhura. I have seen a man breaking down and weeping like a baby. The thing that we say we were misled, and don’t believe it could have happened. You know you are a premier, you have 15 departments. And you must keep details … It is a huge institution, JJ.”
He conceded that the cancellation of the Life Esidimeni contract and the subsequent transfer of patients to unlawful NGOs, some housing patients in butcheries and private homes, were reckless.
“Call us buffoons. Call us people who were derelict in duty. Call us incompetent. Call us anything you like. But David Makhura is genuine is, is honest. He was misled. Information was withheld from him.”
Tabane pressed him on who deprived Makhura of the comprehensive information, and this is when he revealed the advice he had given Qedani Mahlangu.
“The entire establishment, the department of health. Qedani fell on her sword. In fact, I spoke to her privately, you must leave the country, going into exile for two years. JJ, my brother, I do not purport to have a monopoly of wisdom. I am making a call to you, when David said, I didn’t know, he was genuine. I was there.”
Listen to the full interview below: