The legal representative for former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has claimed at the inquest into the Life Esidimeni tragedy that Premier David Makhura took “the ultimate decision to transfer the mental health patients.”
This is in stark contrast to Makhura’s claim that he did not know that the patients were being moved to NGOs.
I have always maintained that Makhura knew what was happening as there were many media reports as well as Mahlangu’s oral reply in the Gauteng Legislature on 15 March 2016 when I asked whether NGOs were ready to receive the patients.
Mahlangu replied as follows: “Progress we have made with the NGOS: we have activated more than 2000 beds, including beds that are in the provincial facilities, as we speak now. The NGOs have hired the staff. They have also been given licenses.”
I hope that the inquest fully probes the premier’s involvement, but this should not exempt Mahlangu from her own culpability for the deaths of the 144 patients.
It is far-fetched to claim that she was not personally responsible as she was the driving force in closing down Life Esidimeni which was presented as a cost-saving measure.
I repeatedly warned in the Gauteng Legislature that it was likely to be a disaster, and so did other organisations on behalf of the patients’ families.
There is an important principle at stake here that politicians should not be able to escape responsibility by blaming officials.
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