Head of Life Esidimeni project apologises
Director Levy Mosenogi of the project to move Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients into other homes has apologised for the deaths of more than 118 people.
Many of the very sick people were transported on bakkies from Life Esidimeni homes into NGOs without beds‚ money or medical support.
Mosenogi was speaking at the arbitration hearings set up to give closure to families who lost relatives.
Family members broke into sobs when he said sorry.
He said: "It was difficult for me. I apologise for myself. I apologise on behalf of the department of health. I would like to say the lesson we learnt is to speak truth to power."
"As senior public servants we know it all the time - to speak to truth to power. That is the lesson I will carry in my remaining days of service to people."
Under cross-examination Mosenogi was frequently asked by retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke why he didn’t speak up about the difficulties of moving the patients to someone more senior than the MEC.
Mosenogi knew there were no beds in NGOs for the patients and that relatives were concerned about their loved ones' safety. He had raised concerns with the MEC‚ but she had not listened. Judge Moseneke asked him: "Why didn’t you tell someone else? You used the word foreboding. Why didn’t you tell someone more senior?"
In his apology Mosenogi said: "I will urge my former senior managers to be strong‚ to be assertive and to be able to state their point. Where we are a team‚ we must speak with one voice‚ so we make a difference."
He also asked that leaders of the Gauteng health department have a medical background. Mosenogi said in an earlier testimony it was a problem that former MEC Qedani Mahlangu did not have a medical background.
"I would like to appeal to government that health [department] in Gauteng is a complex organisation. Any person who wants to be deployed to run the department … must be a seasoned experienced health person [so] it becomes easier to speak in the same language."
He then addressed the families more directly. "Thank you for giving me the chance to give evidence. I know you still need to give healing. I myself have to get healing."
In his final plea‚ he asked that political ideology is not used to interfere with running of the department. "There is always the issue of the dichotomy between the political and administrative interface. The administrative‚ the technocrats … can they be allowed to do the work and political people give oversight?" he asked.
Mosenogi concluded with: "Thank you judge for listening to me. I hope with this we have learnt our lessons."
Judge Moseneke thanked him saying: "Thank you for closing remarks. They are appropriate to the circumstances."