Qedani Mahlangu explains her 'good intentions'
Former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu said the Life Esidimeni relocations could have been "handled better" as she apologised for the loss of life.
Mahlangu is appearing at an arbitration hearing to explain her role in the move of more than 1‚700 mentally ill patients from Esidimeni facilities into ill-equipped NGOs in 2016. By September last year‚ 143 mentally ill patients had died‚ of causes including neglect‚ starvation and pneumonia.
Mahlangu‚ who has been studying in London‚ started with a witness statement to read out.
When she gave her first apology‚ a family member started sobbing hysterically.
She said: "I am deeply sorry for your loss .... I know it will not bring them back‚ but I am deeply sorry."
Mahlangu said the project did not work out as anticipated‚ leading to a "tragic loss of life".
"Clearly this did not go according to plan. For that I sincerely apologise."
She said the intention of the move was to integrate mentally ill patients into the community‚ rather than leaving them hidden away in institutions‚ where they were stigmatised.
"For far too long‚ the mentally ill have been treated as social outcasts."
She said the project was done with "good intentions".
"People didn’t plan that people were going to die." At the end of her prepared written statement‚ before her cross-examination began‚ she apologised to families again.
"I want to apologise for the loss of life in the project . . . For what is it worth‚ I sincerely apologise for the loss of loved ones."