We were afraid of MEC Mahlangu


YET another senior Gauteng health official has testified on the culture of
fear in the department. Suspended departmental head Dr Barney Selebano said he was afraid to stand up to former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu despite knowing the project would have adverse consequences. Selebano was under cross-examination by Section27 advocate Adila Hassim. He was testifying at the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing in Johannesburg.

Selebano is the latest senior official to admit that he was afraid to stand up to
Mahlangu after project manager Levy Mosenogi also testified that despite presenting alternative plans to terminating the Life Esidimeni contract, he was dismissed by Mahlangu who asked him if he worked for the department or Life Esidimeni. He said he even asked for an extension because six months was not sufficient to move patients safely to suitable NGOs. Mosenogi also testified that despite raising numerous objections, he was undermined and the project was rushed through. Selebano came under fire for not investigating all the NGOs. He said that while he closed about five NGOs, he could not investigate the rest as the ombudsman was already investigating the deaths. Justice Dikgang Moseneke asked Selebano why the project did not have
a monitoring system.“This was not a project to move bricks from one place to another. Why did you not have a tracking system?” Moseneke said. “We all agree that this was a bad project. You can’t defend it. There is no one with a conscience that can defend it,” Selebano said.

Hassim asked Selebano why he licensed Precious Angels, to which he responded that he regularised it as it was decided that Manamela should no longer sign licences. “Why would you regularise a licence for Precious Angels which you had to close down yourself?” Hassim asked. Precious Angels is one of the NGOs where patients died and that Selebano shut down after he was reportedly instructed to do so by the health minister. Selebano’s last-minute attempt to avoid testifying at the Life Esidimeni Arbitration hearing on Monday wasunsuccessful. His lawyer Owen Cook made a submission arguing that his client should not be made to testify as the state had already conceded liability. Cook further argued that Selebano should be led by state lawyer Tebogo Hutamo as he was the one who subpoenaed him. Hutamo said Selebano was a witness and that Cook was not part of the proceedings and as such could not participate.