South Africa: Life Esidimeni - Mahlangu Has Not Brought Closure to Affected Families, Says Lawyer

In the three days that former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has testified, she has not brought closure to the families of 143 mentally ill patients who died after they were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities to various NGOs, a lawyer said on Thursday.

Advocate Dirk Groenewald, for Solidarity, told Mahlangu that her evidence in the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing was important but she had failed to bring closure to those affected.

"You live in total denial," Groenewald said while cross-examining Mahlangu at the hearing in Parktown, Johannesburg, on Thursday.

Groenewald added that for the past three days, Mahlangu claimed not to recall most of the events that happened during the Life Esidimeni project.

During her final day of testimony Mahlangu said she believed that what happened to the families was "regrettable".

"I came here honestly and truthfully. I have been taking an oath every day since [I've been] sitting here, so help me God, and I think I have done my best in telling things to the extent that I remember, and to the best of my ability."

'I am not directly to blame'

She said she had "decided to fall on my sword".

"I think that I have taken political accountability and I am here (at the hearing) to support the arbitration process to answer and give information to the extent that I can contribute towards finalisation of the report."

Meanwhile, Legal Aid lawyer Advocate Lilla Crouse put it to her that she was directly to blame for the deaths and suffering of the patients who were moved.

"I am not directly to blame," Mahlangu replied.

Crouse also told her that it appeared she was more concerned about her political career than the Life Esidimeni patients, but Mahlangu denied this.

"Justice, I believe the truth will set me free," Mahlangu said.

Mahlangu also told the hearing that her family had taken strain because of her government work.

'I am not a prophet'

"I understand and accept that things have gone wrong under my rule. My family should not have to suffer because of me. I feel like we have let down the most vulnerable in society and for that I apologise."

Earlier, Mahlangu said she was not a prophet, and therefore could not have anticipated the death of 143 psychiatric patients.

"It was not intentional. If I had foresight like a prophet, maybe I would have seen, but I am not a prophet. I do not even know what will happen tomorrow.

But retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke quizzed her on why she did not listen to the families of the psychiatric patients when they opposed the move from Life Esidimeni.

"Why didn't you listen to them?" Moseneke asked, referring to the families.

Mahlangu replied that she had given the families the assurance that they could contact her, "even if they sent a 'please call me'" message.

She also insisted that she gave the families her contact numbers.

Mahlangu acknowledged that she should have behaved differently.

The hearing continues on Friday.

Source: News24

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