South Africa: Suspended Health Department Head to Challenge Life Esidimeni Arbitration Subpoena

Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke will lead the Alternative Dispute Resolution Process for Life Esidimeni.
29 November 2017

Suspended Gauteng Department of Health head Tiego Ephraim Selebano is on Wednesday expected to challenge a subpoena requesting his appearance at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings next month.

Selebano wants the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to set aside the subpoena and has claimed in papers filed earlier this month that he feared incriminating himself.

He lodged the application against Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramakgopa, who issued the subpoena requesting him to appear before Justice Dikgang Moseneke on December 4.

He believes that the issuing of the subpoena was an abuse of court process because he was not being called as a witness to give evidence relating to any dispute between the parties, "but purely because the parties wish to interrogate me regarding my role in the Deinstitutionalisation Project".

Selebano had said prior to 2015 that a number of mental health patients were in the care of the Life Healthcare Esidimeni Hospitals, which were paid for by the Department of Health.

"In February 2015 a decision was taken by the member of the executive committee for health in Gauteng, Ms Qedani Dorothy Mahlangu, to deinstitutionalise mental healthcare at LHEH."

He said that while he was the head, he had little to do with the day-to-day implementation of the project because then-MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, had established a separate team to spearhead the project, led by Levy Mosenogi.

Selebano said the project was implemented as planned until Mahlangu established a Project Marathon Team, which fast-tracked the process from May 2016 to complete it within six months, instead of the initial intention to deinstitutionalise approximately 20% of the patients per year over a period of five years.

"It was apparently primarily [as] a result of the fast-tracking of the Deinstitutionalisation Project of mental healthcare [that] patients sadly passed away," he said.

Subsequently, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi appointed an ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

On February 1, Makgoba published his report and Selebano appealed Makgoba's findings.

Selebano then lodged an appeal against Makgoba's findings insofar as they related to him, saying he did not accept the correctness of those findings.

He said since the Gauteng Department of Health has instituted disciplinary proceedings against him, "any evidence given by me could be used against me in my disciplinary proceedings, and there was no undertaking to do so".

Selebano said he had been advised not to appear as a witness before the arbitration process until his appeal against Makgoba's report and disciplinary hearings had been finalised as this would prejudice his rights in these matters.

He said there was no legitimate purpose in seeking to subpoena him, and he had instructed his attorneys to seek urgent relief in the High Court to set aside any subpoena on the basis that it was improperly sought and granted.

News24 reported that Selebano was one of three key witnesses expected to testify on what led to the deaths of at least 143 mental health patients who had been moved from Life Esidimeni to unlicensed NGOs.

Source: News24

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