Life Esidimeni Inquest adjourned until Monday

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The Life Esidimeni Inquest has been adjourned until next Monday. Judge Monnoa Teffo says the aim is to give legal representatives enough time to prepare.

This follows numerous proposals put forward by Section 27, which represents 44 of the deceased mental health patients’ families.

The advocacy group wants more witnesses in particular experts, to be invited to testify.

The Life Esidimeni Inquest is probing the deaths of 144-mentally ill patients after they were moved from Life Esidemeni to ill-equipped and unregistered facilities in June 2016.

Inquest into the deaths of 144 psychiatric patients resumes virtually:

The inquest is seeking to determine whether anyone can be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 mental health patients, who died after they were moved from Life Esidemeni centres to ill-equipped and unregistered facilities in June 2016.

The Gauteng Health Department, under the leadership of former MEC Qedani Mahlangu, took the decision to move the patients.

This led to the abrupt relocation of more than 2 000 mental health patients. The provincial health department cited budgetary constraints at the time.

The inquest has seen numerous postponements thus far.

Judge Teffo says this postponement will give legal representatives ample time to prepare for the proceedings.

“The parties should have ample time, to look into this proposals by Section 27. Also, take into account these other proposals that are there, and taking into account the problems that the other parties are having with regard to case line. And also, I’m going to give you time. And at this stage, we can excuse the witness.”

Stakeholders also raised concerns about technical glitches hampering the virtual proceedings.

Section 27 has put forward a number of proposals, which led to the Inquest’s adjournment until next Monday. This includes requesting the court to invite expert witnesses to testify.

Legal representative for Mahlangu, Teneille Govender has welcome the postponement.

“I also had a look on the submission made by Section 27 and I agree with Mr Martin. I think it will be very valuable for all of us to consider this before we proceed with these witnesses. It will alleviate a lot issues that have been raised thus far.”

Evidence leader Pieter Luyt says role players should be given time to go through Section 27’s proposals – a sentiment shared by Advocate Henry Martin, who is part of the proceedings.

“I know a lot of people haven’t had a chance to read this submission yet. But what I’m about to submit now doesn’t come from any desire to delay the proceeding. I have a concern, but I’m not gonna go into the merits of this. But I have a concern that when people read this proposal, (they) will have fairly strong views on its merits and some objection too. So, it will require some debate and some arguments. So, my worry is we are going to convene now. People might say they didn’t (have time) to read this or to take proper instructions.”

The inquest has already heard evidence from 10 of the 36 witnesses, among them senior officials from the Gauteng Health Department and former Life Esidimeni employees.