Former Deputy Director-General of Clinical Services at the Gauteng Health Department, Dr Richard Lebethe says bodies of deceased Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients were only handed to the families for burial once postmortems were conducted.

Lebethe says it was imperative to conduct the postmortems as this assisted in determining the cause of death.

Most of them died during the transfer period to other NGO’s in 2016.

He’s testifying before the inquest into the deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni mentally ill patients in the Pretoria High Court.

“It happened, in some of the cases, that some of the bodies were collected by the families and were buried. The bodies that go to FPS, the specific natural deaths. But in the case of those, there’s possible litigation, dispute, and the likes. But more importantly is that the people who passed in institutions it becomes a postmortem so as to know the cause of death.”

Lebethe said he was not involved in vetting NGOs that mental health patients were sent to.

The inquest was established to determine who should be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 patients who died of hunger and dehydration after being transferred to ill-equipped NGOs.

Life Esidimeni Inquest | Dr Richard Lebete denies involvement in vetting NGOs: