The High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday withdrew a warrant issued last week against former Director of Gauteng Mental Health Services, Dr Mmakgabo Manamela, after she failed to show up to testify in the Life Esidimeni inquest.
It remains unclear if Dr Manamela will finally take the witness stand at the Life Esidimeni inquest on Thursday morning.
Dr Manamela has cited ill health and difficulties uploading evidence documents as her reasons for not appearing.
The inquest seeks to determine if there are any individuals to be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 mentally ill patients relocated from a Life Esidimeni facility in June 2016 to other NGOs – mostly unlicensed and not suitable to accommodate such patients.
Dr Mmakgabo Manamela fails to appear again to the inquest [ 7 September 2022]
Former Head of the Gauteng Health Department, Dr Barney Selebano, has told the inquest that what transpired in the Life Esidimeni tragedy was shameful.
“Well, remember you must understand what was happening around that time. This was all over the media. So as a carrying department, you should feel sorry about that. You should feel sorry about that,” says Dr Selebano.
The legal representative for the families of 44 of the deceased patients, Nasreen Rajab-Budlender, put it to Selebano that the department had ignored concerns by interest groups not to move patients from the Life Esidimeni facilities.
“And the reason they were very concerned and asking a meeting to reconsider the plan to reduce the beds at Life Esidimeni, and most importantly in this letter- the main reason was that the community mental health services that the NGOs were not ready to accommodate. So would you agree with me that their concerns were justice? Yes, it was justified. Do you agree? Yes they were justified to raise their concerns to the department,” says Rajab-Budlender.