A patient was allegedly raped when profoundly mentally ill patients were crammed into the Takalani home for disabled children it emerged during the Life Esidimeni hearing on Wednesday when Section 27 advocate Adila Hassim was speaking.
Suspended Gauteng health department head Barney Selebano is testifying under subpoena at the hearing and was on the stand under cross-examination.
He was asked by Hassim why he signed the affidavits that allowed the Johannesburg High Court to rule in March 2016 that the Gauteng Department of Health could transfer 50 mentally ill adult patients from Life Esidimeni to Takalani Home for Disabled Children.
“There was one alleged rape at Takalani Home centre last year after the move‚” Hassim told him. Selebano was shocked. An apologetic looking Selebano said the move “was highly regrettable….. It’s embarrassing‚ it’s painful…it is shameful.”
Selebano’s affidavit allowed the court to rule that the move could go ahead‚ against Section 27’s legal protestations. Selebano’s affidavit read: “I am confident that Takalani Home‚ which is in part financed by government‚ has adequate facilities….”
This smaller move kick-started the move of 1‚712 Life Esidimeni patients and ultimately 143 patients died.
“The applicants [Section 27] lost the case‚” said hearing judge Dikgang Moseneke.
“People were compelled to stay there [at Takalani].”
Selebano answered: “They perished.”
Moseneke said “it [Takalani] was a death trap ….women were exposed to potential rape”. Two patients contracted typhoid at Takalani due to a lack of hygiene.
Hassim also explained that some mentally ill male patients were on “last resort” medication to suppress their hormones and sexual urges.
Yet‚ men and women were put together in some rooms in NGOs during the move.
Selebano could not explain why he signed an affidavit in March telling the court everything was fine a month after he had expressed private concern about the move.
He suggested legal staff in the department told him to sign the affidavit and told him they had “a winnable case” against Section 27.
He may not have “comprehended: the affidavit‚ he admitted.
The culture of government’s endless forms and thousands of documents that heads of departments sign daily‚ without perhaps comprehending them was highlighted on the stand.
One government insider told TimesLIVE that HODs could sign hundreds of forms a day.
Selebano also admitted under oath he was “scared” of his boss‚ former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu‚ and didn’t challenge her on moving patients.
Selebano also spoke about a “difficult culture” of government.
“It was a difficult culture‚” he repeated. He said it was “hierarchical”. He said it was difficult to question superiors and that objecting created a “difficult relationship”.
Moseneke asked him “in this [government] culture‚ is a leader ever wrong?”
“It depends on the leader‚” answered Selebano.