Justice Dikgang Moseneke has dismissed an application by Gauteng Director of Mental Health Dr Mmakgabo Manamela for a four-week postponement in giving testimony on her role in a rushed move of over 3 000 mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni to various unlicensed NGOs in 2016.
Moseneke said the application was baseless - in terms of facts and law - and consequently dismissed the application.
He requested Manamela to take the stand immediately, something which the crowd welcomed with a round of applause.
Manamela's lawyer, Lerato Mashilane, said she needed time to prepare herself as a subpoenaed witness, saying she feared that she would be ambushed. She asked to be given access to documents submitted in other testimonies.
Manamela was subpoenaed on November 2.
Mashilane argued further that Manamela was an exclusive witness, different from others, as there was a possibility that she would face criminal charges of concealment of evidence for her role in the move which saw over 140 mentally ill patients die.
The criminal charges, he argued, would possibly stem from an ad hoc tribunal which took place on October 27. She is also due to attend a disciplinary hearing between December 4 and 8.
"It is fair and just for my client to be given an opportunity to have access to all the documents. She is sitting in on two separate proceedings. In conclusion, she needs the advantage of the information so she comes before arbitration and gives a testimony that will help the arbitrator reach a fair and just outcome," argued Mashilane.
Last minute application queried
Advocate Adila Hassim argued that the application should be dismissed, saying it was an unusual request, with no legal precedent. As Manamela was only a subpoenaed witness, and not a party to the arbitration, she was not entitled access to the documents, Hassim said.
"It is in the interests of all that there's finality to litigation. Postponement results in greater costs to the parties and waste of time, and it has implication on fairness and justice to the parties involved," she said.
State lawyer Tebogo Hutamo argued that the subpoena clearly stated what was expected of Manamela, saying that she hadn't asked for this information when she was told that she was required to appear, adding that it is unclear what other information Manamela wanted.
Mashilane tried to argue that there was also information that Manamela needed on a work laptop that was taken from her when she was suspended. He said they had made two requests to the Department of Health for the laptop.
In response, Hassim and Hutamo argued that the request - made on Saturday, November 18 - stated that the laptop be made available by noon on Monday, a belated application considering Manamela was due to start giving her testimony at 9:30.
Hassim questioned why the application for postponement was only made on Monday, on the day she was due to testify.
The hearing continues.