Life Esidimeni Inquest expected to call more witnesses

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The inquest into the deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients is expected to call more witnesses as the hearing enters the third week in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

The inquest is probing whether anyone could be held criminally accountable for the deaths of the psychiatric patients.

On Tuesday, former deputy director-general of Clinical Services in the Gauteng Health Department, Dr Richard Lebethe told the inquest that former Gauteng Health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu was alerted to the concerns of possible relapse of patients prior to the transfer if quickly moved to unfamiliar environment.

“Dr Manamela knew about these concerns and with Dr Mazamisa being there is the one who was in touch with her. [I] would have expected her to inform her. I didn’t particularly inform her if I remember well, but I’m certain she was aware,” explains Dr Lebethe.

The inquest into the deaths of 144 mentally ill patients continues:

The causes of the deaths are said to include starvation and neglect.

Former MEC Mahlangu subsequently shut down the centre in June 2016.

During cross-examination on Monday, Dr Lebethe told lawyers of the families of the deceased that Mahlangu was the first person to tell him about the deaths.

Dr Lebethe also told the court that the bodies of deceased patients were only handed to the families for burial once postmortems were conducted.

Lebethe said 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 NGOs in 2016.