News / South Africa

Brenda Masilela
2 minute read
6 Dec 2017
5:09 pm

Selebano tells Life Esidimeni hearings he was scared of Qedani Mahlangu

Brenda Masilela

The doctor claimed there was no space to differ sharply with his superiors and differences also caused strain in relationships.

Suspended Gauteng head of the department of health Dr Tiego Selebano said he was scared to stand up against former MEC Qedani Mahlangu despite warnings that the move would be disastrous.

Suspended Gauteng health head of the department Barney Tiego Selebano on Wednesday told the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings it was difficult to stand up against former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, adding the marathon project was not stopped despite warnings that moving patients to nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) would be disastrous.

“Were you really scared of the MEC when patients were dying?” retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke asked.

Selebano responded: “Yes, it was tense.”

Moseneke told Selebano that he was not obliged by law to do what the MEC wanted him to do about the lives of other people, and if he was scared that he might lose his position, the law would have protected him.

“Do you realise that?” Moseneke asked Selebano.

Selebano responded saying: “Yes, I do.”

The doctor said in government things were different and that there was no space to differ sharply with his superiors and differences also caused strain in relationships.

Advocate Adila Hassim, for section 27, grilled Selebano and wanted to know why the department of health defended itself after it was warned about moving of patients.

Section 27 had sent the letter of demand to department further warning against the transfer of patients .They threatened to take legal action if the warning was not heeded.

The department opted to defend itself and take the matter to court.

“Why did the department decide to take matter to court?” asked Hassim.

Selebano responded saying: “The decision was made based on legal advice from our attorneys.”

Selebano said he could not remember why the department decided to defend itself against Section 27. He asked to be given time to read through the health department’s answering affidavit.

Part of the affidavit states that the department said Section 27’s claims were without basis and that the department had the project under control.

“When I read this … I realise just how we did things wrong. We were very wrong by not heeding advice and not listening to people,” Selebano said.

“We did things terribly wrong. We should have listened.”

Selebano reiterated that if he could go back in time, he would do things differently.

Moseneke read Selebano his own statement made under oath that the Takalani facility was well equipped to care for mental health patients.

Thirty-eight patients died in Takalani, and there were two reports of alleged rape at the centre.

“Why did you do this? That place was a death trap,” Moseneke said to Selebano.

Selebano answered, saying: “I wish I had done things differently. I cannot defend this type of thing.”

Moseneke asked him if it was Mahlangu who asked him to do this.

“I cannot point fingers as a leader. I find this painful as a person,” Selebano said.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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