Life Esidimeni Hearing: Selebano throws Mahlangu under the bus

Barney Selebano testified before the arbitration hearing into the Life Esidimeni tragedy on Tuesday and placed all the blame on ex-Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.

Dr Barney Selebano finally testified before the arbitration hearing into the Life Esidimeni tragedy on Tuesday and promptly threw former Gauteng MEC Qedani Mahlangu under the bus.

Selebano, the suspended health head of department at Gauteng health, told the hearing that he had no power to stop the project from being implemented as that rested with the former health MEC.

He said that Mahlangu put pressure on officials to move the almost 2000 psychiatric patients from long-time service provider Life Esidimeni care facilities to unlicensed and ill-equipped facilities run by non-governmental organizations.

He acknowledged that the project was implemented too quickly and that flaws in the plans were not adequately addressed.
Selebano told the hearing that the situation sometimes caused him sleepless nights.

Around 143 patients died as a result of the ill-advised and hastily implemented project, which was reportedly conceived as a means to save costs.

The suspended head of the mental health department in Gauteng, Dr Makgoba Manamela testified last week. She conceded that certain NGOs were given licenses to operate beyond their capacity. She also conceded that a number of the NGOs did not receive the proper forms which would have allowed them to access funding to care for the patients sent to them.

The hearing, which started in October, has heard testimony from family members whose loved ones died as a result of starvation and lack of care, while employees at the facilities shared of their distress at their powerlessness to help the patients.

Mahlangu is scheduled to testify at the hearing next year.

Selebano will continue his testimony on Wednesday.

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