The trial in the Pretoria High Court was adjourned for three consecutive days last week after former Gauteng mental health director Dr Mmakgaba Manamela failed to appear, and it remains unclear whether she will attend the Life Esidimeni inquest on Wednesday.
Manamela was due to appear in the High Court in Pretoria to give evidence but was unable to appear, citing unwellness and difficulty uploading evidentiary documents.
After that, the court authorized her arrest.
The investigation aims to determine whether anyone can be prosecuted for the deaths of 144 mentally ill patients who were transferred from Life Esidimeni in June 2016 to other non-governmental organizations, which are mostly unlicensed and unfit to house such patients .
Gauteng’s former head of health, Dr Barney Celebano, told the inquest on Tuesday that what happened in the Life Esidimeni tragedy was disgraceful.
Dr. Celebano says, “Well, remember, you have to understand what was going on at the time. It was all over the media. So, as a transport department, you should regret it. You should regret it.’
Dr. Mmakgaba Manamela does not appear again at the inquest
The families of the deceased patients are hoping the truth will come out soon so they can find closure. Christine Nxumala recounts how her sister Virginia died of alleged malnutrition while at an NGO.
“We found food that was not digested in her body. She was so weak that she could not chew anything. So my question is, why was she force-fed? So this was done so that there would be some food in the system after the post-mortem. It’s very painful how they responded.”
The investigation finds out whether there are persons who can be held criminally responsible for the death of 144 mentally ill patients.