Maverick Citizen


Marathon transfer project of mentally ill patients lacked ‘proper due diligence’ — top planning official

Jabulile Hlatshwayo, a family member of a mental healthcare victim, at Life Esidimeni hearings in Johannesburg on 22 January 2018. (Photo: Joyrene Kramer)

‘What I noticed was that we didn’t have a proper due diligence in terms of how we’re going to do that. That was the weakness that I observed,’ said Gauteng Department of Health Chief Planning Director Levy Mosenogi on the Life Esidimeni tragedy that cost the lives of at least 144 mentally ill patients.

On Wednesday, Gauteng Department of Health Chief Planning Director Levy Mosenogi was back on the witness stand at the Life Esidimeni inquest. He testified that while the mental health policies in place at the department were sound, there had been an issue with their implementation.

Mosenogi said that he had brought in Dr Makgabo Manamela as his deputy because she had more mental healthcare experience than he did and that the mental healthcare unit was led by Manamela

“I was the leader, but I worked with a team. I was not the only one responsible” Mosenogi said when asked if he was in charge of the marathon project. “It was not a typical project where you have all the resources under you.”

He said he had visited the facilities and their CEOs for practical research to ascertain their readiness for the transfers. He said he did so mostly with the mental health team. 

Mosenogi said he was not working only on the Life Esidimeni project, but had other concurrent responsibilities.

Testifying about the decanting plan for the mental healthcare users, Mosenogi answered, “What I noticed was that we didn’t have a proper due diligence in terms of how we’re going to do that. That was the weakness that I observed.” 

He said a logistics plan for the movement of patients needed to be properly addressed and sent to Life Esidimeni, but six weeks before the date allocated for the transfer of mental healthcare patients, this had still not been done.

Mosenogi confirmed that clinical psychologists had warned against moving mental healthcare users without having a proper plan in place after advocate Harry van Bergen read out a letter from clinicians, sent in April 2015. The group had sent a letter to the department registering “grave” concern over the project to transfer patients to NGOs. 

“We note that this decision will have a devastating impact on the health and social wellbeing of mental healthcare users, the healthcare systems and members of the community. We also note that this decision will likely escalate healthcare costs in our province. We therefore request an urgent meeting with the honourable MEC of health…” to address their concerns.

“You were aware of the concerns that were raised, you yourself said that it is for that very reason that you nominated some of those clinicians to form part of the team and yet you saw fit to on oath support what Dr Lebethe said, namely that there was no foundation to the concerns that were raised,” said Van Bergen. 

“I thought that with a lot of hard work… it might be possible to achieve the three months,” replied Mosenogi.

Mosenogi said that only some people heeded the clinicians’ warnings. He said former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu wanted the marathon project to be concluded speedily.

The inquest continues on Thursday. DM/MC


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  • Just reading these article and the anger in me rises which is very difficult to control. This inquest is to find out if anybody could/should be charged. For heaven’s sake, as if that is even debatable. But I can already predict that nothing, sweet blow nothing, will ever happen. And Mahlangu, the chief architect will walk totally free. And Ramaphosa will once again exclaim how a wonderful cadre she is.

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