Life Esidimeni move a collective decision: Mahlangu

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Former Gauteng MEC Qedani Mahlangu says the decision to terminate  contract with Life Esidimeni was not her’s alone, but that of a collective.

She says it was a cost-cutting measure and in response to the Auditor-General’s concerns that the contract did not follow normal tender processes. The contract has been in place since 1979.

Mahlangu has been answering questions at the arbitration hearings in Parktown, Johannesburg, about the decision to take mentally-ill patients to NGO’s, where 143 of them died.

“To say that the decision to terminate was Qedani Mahlangu, it would be misleading the public. It was myself, the HoD and all of us in a meeting.”

She says that none of the senior departmental officials ever objected to the relocation of patients to NGO’s. This goes against officials’ evidence that they were dismissed by the MEC when they raised concerns about the project which led to the deaths of 143 mentally-ill patients.

Mahlangu says former HoD, Dr Barney Selebano, and former Mental Health Director, Dr Makgabo Manamela, continuously misled her by reporting that the department would be able to find beds for the 1,700 mentally-ill patients, and that the implementation was going well.

“Through formal meetings, Manamela would make a presentation or the relevant official would, and after those discussions a progress report grade, then the media liaison officer would, for instance, say let me give progress to the public on what we are doing and he would go ahead and issue a media statement on the basis of what I am being given in the formal meetings of the department. I am sure those media statements are contained in the various files.”

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