NGOs that were not ready to accommodate Life Esidimeni patients had to re-apply for licenses: Jacobus

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Former Deputy Director-General for Mental Health Services in Gauteng, Hannah Jacobus, has told the Life Esidimeni Inquest that selected Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and new ones were not ready to accommodate patients and had to re-apply for their licences.

Jacobus was responsible for overseeing NGO operations during the transfer of patients from Life Esidimeni facilities. 144 died of hunger and dehydration after they were transferred to unregistered NGOs.

The inquest was established to determine if anyone should be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 mentally-ill patients in 2016.

Jacobus told the inquest during cross-examination that there was no clear date set for the termination of the Life Esidimeni project, hence they could not prepare NGOs to accommodate the patients.

“So we did not receive any formal application at that stage. As I’m saying there was no given time frame for Life Esidimeni closure. We’ve done a lot of informal visits, a lot of them throughout the whole of Gauteng. It was only after December when Dr. Manamela asked me to write a report about the status of the hospitals and NGOs.”

According to Jacobus there no was sufficient time to conduct training for qualifying NGOs.

“And there was no time to do the formal visits. Dr. Manamela’s instruction was that she needs a report from the hospitals and NGOs. Then I went to the engineers to accompany me. Licenses were done on the last visit of the NGOs as per Dr. Manamela’s directive. That was according to the numbers that were given and were approved to receive the patients based on the numbers that were given.”

During the proceedings, Judge Monoa Teffo had to step in as she was not satisfied with the line of questioning by one of the legal representative, who cross-examined Jacobus. She was questioned about how NGOs were granted or denied operating licenses.

Adv Sibara: “Tshwane was the only part that was not done?”

Jacobus: “Tshwane I disagree.”

Judge Teffo: “You disagree, come again.”

Jacobus: “As I’m saying I disagree with the statement because there were visits that were conducted before the formal visit at the hospitals. Visits were conducted there informally and that’s in all the areas.”

Judge Teffo : “Ok let’s not go back to that evidence, Mr Sibare just continue.”

Adv Sibare: “Yes My Lady.”

About 10 of the 36 witnesses scheduled to testify have already appeared before the inquest. The inquest continues.