Court dismisses Dr Manamela’s request for postponement in testimony at Life Esidimeni Inquest

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The High Court in Pretoria has dismissed with contempt attempts by a key witness to delay the Life Esidimeni Inquest.

The former Gauteng Health Department’s Mental Health Director Dr Mmakgabo Manamela has been compelled to testify despite arguing that she’s not ready and wanted a postponement until next week Monday.

The court argued it will not be in the interest of justice to grant a postponement. Manemala is now set to give evidence from Tuesday until the end of the week.

Judge Mmonoa Teffo ruled against the applicant, “It is in the interest of everyone here that this inquest should be brought to finality. We cannot sit at “infenito”. We have to finalize this inquest. As such I just don’t [think] if there’s a need again to delay this matter. I must indicate that this thing of stand down the proceedings is not going to be in the interest of justice. So on that basis I conclude that is not in the interest of justice to a further postponement in this matter.”

Manamela is expected to tell the court as who exactly granted the order to relocate over 2 000 mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni facilities. Her lawyer, Advocate Ndivhoniswani Makani is not satisfied with the outcome.

“This honourable inquest has to ask itself. What is in the interest of justice? For it to order someone who says I have been working? I have even found a structure of my evidence, that I wish to applaud so that it assist other parties. But at least by Thursday this week they will be having it. We did not stop consulting after anticipating that we would not be able start today. And we said let’s work on this matter. And at least by Monday we can granted the opportunity to proceed.”

About 144 patients died during the June 2016 marathon relocation from Life Esidimeni to other NGOs, mostly unlicensed and not suitable to accommodate mental health patients.

Families of the deceased patients are now hopeful the truth is about to come out, so that they could find closure. Christine Nxumalo relates how her sister Virginia died of alleged malnutrition while accommodated at one of the NGOs.

“We found food that was undigested in her system. She was so weak there was no way she could have chewed any. So my question why did they forcefully feed her? So this was done so that there should be some food in the system when the postmortem was done. It is painful how they responded.”

The inquest is probing whether there are individuals that could be criminally charged for the deaths of 144 mental ill patients.

VIDEO | Life Esidimeni Inquest I Former mental health director Makgabo Manamela to postpone her testimony: