A deputy director in the Gauteng health department, who was in charge of vetting NGOs in the Life Esidimeni tragedy in which 143 mentally ill people died, on thursday said her boss, the director of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela, pressured her not follow the correct auditing procedure when issuing out licences.
Head of the department Dr Barney Selebano and Manamela, who have both testified in the Esidimeni Arbitration hearings, resigned this week.
Deputy Director Hanna Jacobus on Thursday testified before retired chief justice, Dikgang Moseneke, that Manamela told her that procedure could not be followed because of the imminent closure of Life Esidimeni.
Jacobus said when she asked Manamela questions, she was removed from the core functions of the supposed cost-saving project to transfer the patients to 27 NGos. Manamela spearheaded the project. The transferred patients died of, among other causes, starvation and neglect. As many as 59 patients are yet to be accounted for.
When asked by Moseneke what she did when she received an order which she knew was wrong, Jacobus responded saying she felt uncomfortable. However, she said she continued with her tasks even though she knew disregarding procedure was wrong.
“I was instructed to continue the licence because it was unusual circumstances,” she said.
Jacobus said by the time she heard about the deaths of the patients, more than 80 of them had already died. “To this day I regret these decisions taken,” lamented the deputy director.
She also said her former boss, Dr. Manamela, lied during her testimony when she said some of the NGO’s had been audited. Jacobus said none of the facilities were inspected as the audit procedure required.
Seemingly unimpressed, Moseneke asked Jacobus why it was that everyone from her department shifted the blame to someone else, but Jacobus insisted she was telling the truth.
The hearing continues.
– African News Agency (ANA)