The Life Esidimeni Inquest in Pretoria has heard that NGO’s junior staff, Theophelus Nofile had access to patients’ confidential files. This was despite the fact that it wasn’t in his scope of work.
Nofile and others were working as cleaners at Princess Angels Home in Danville, west of Pretoria. The facility accommodated scores of the mental health users, after their transfer from the Life Esidimeni Facilities.
Nofile has previously testified. However, he has been summoned for cross-examination. His testimony derived from the transfer of patients from Life Esidimeni to Princess Angel NGO, one of the infamously ill-equipped facilities where mental health patients died. This after, they were moved from the Life Esidimeni facilities in June 2016 following closure by Gauteng Health Department.
Adv Tlou Phihlela, who represents some of the families of the deceased patients, was not satisfied with Nofile’s response to questions. Nofile argued that he could not remember some names of role players, including the names of the patients who died.
“My lady that’s elementary. What I am talking about here is a list of names. Now it doesn’t help the witness to any inconsistency if he says he does not remember this person properly he doesn’t. I mean all the names that are mentioned are not random. These are the names that he testified on. That he did in evidence in chief and he had a lot to say. But if he had said something in regard to a particular then I may take him on that,” Adv Phihlela explains.
Nofile, who testified with the assistance of an interpreter, was called to order on numerous occasions. Judge Mmonoa Teffo had to remind him that he was not there to ask questions but to give evidence. Nofile was reluctant to tell the court who gave him permission to access confidential information of the patients, as well as having no knowledge of patients who died at an NGO where he was working.
“Can I ask him a question? Judge: No. I do not understand because you’re here to give evidence and answer questions,” says Adv Phihlela.
His negative responses also attracted the attention of evidence leaders.
“Mr Luyt would you like to say something on this…Yes my lady I agree. If the witness earlier testified in chief evidence about some names of the deceased patients and now he says he cannot remember. That’s not fair. In his chief, he told the court he does remember. Now he can’t,” says Evidence leader.
The inquest is probing whether there are individuals who could be criminally charged for the deaths of 144 mentally ill patients.