The Pretoria High Court has adjourned the inquest into deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients until the 4th of October this year. This is to allow some of the role players time to arrange and finalise their legal representation.  

Only four out of the 36 witnesses scheduled to give evidence at the inquest have already testified.  

The inquest is considering whether anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths, following the closure of Life Esidimeni centers by former Gauteng Health MEC  Qedani Mahlangu in 2016.  

Judge Mmonoa Teffo has cautioned role-players to make use of the adjournment period to finalise their outstanding legal arrangements.

“We can resume on the next term on the 4th of October. And on that particular day, I will keep on checking with the other parties. The evidence leader, my registrar, those parties and then we will confirm whether on that particular day we will proceed. So, depending on what will happen – because I cannot say whether the people shall already have obtained legal representation or not – I mean this is a difficulty. It is something that I cannot anticipate will happen. But should there be problems, (we) shall just see how to deal with that at the time.” 

Families were angry

Former leader for the Life Esidimeni Transfer Project, Levy Mosenogi says engagements between former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and families of Life Esidimeni healthcare users were at times characterised by anger and dissolution.

He was testifying at the inquest into deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients that is under way in the Pretoria High Court.

Mosenogi is the fourth witness to testify on the transfer of mentally challenged patients from Life Esidimeni centers to other facilities.

The facilities were ultimately shut down by Mahlangu.

Mosenogi says families and employees at Life Esidimeni were unhappy with the relocations.

“It was tough even for me,  so when the MEC came in she decided to take over the chair, she could see that I wasn’t coping. The people were not satisfied with the closure of Waverly. They raised issues and the MEC responded but they were not happy with the response. They didn’t like the responses. There were so many issues raised. They were not happy about the closure of the facility. It was very tough. People were complaining and raising their voices.”

Deputy Director-General of Clinical Services in the Gauteng Health Department, Doctor Richard Lebethe testified before the inquest on Tuesday: