SUSPENDED Gauteng Health head of department Barney Selebano yesterday owned up to the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
At the hearing in Parktown, Joburg he said he wished he could go back and do things differently.
“I now know exactly how we did wrong by not listening to others. We did things terribly wrong,” said Selebano.
He said he feared former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu.
This was after Advocate Adila Hassim of Section27 argued that health professionals warned the department before ending the Life Esidimeni contract, but Selebano went ahead and signed it off.
Proceedings were adjourned for Selebano to read through the affidavit from Marathon Project leader Levy Mosenogi.
Mosenogi requested a six-month to a year extension to ensure the mental patients’ safety, but Mahlangu refused and 143 patients died.
Mosenogi testified in tears that he was afraid of Mahlangu and had no support in the department to stand up to her.
Selebano claimed he supported Mosenogi and had asked him as project leader to convince Mahlangu.
“The MEC said: ‘Mr Mosenogi, are you working for Life Esidimeni?’ and it was left like that.”
Selebano said there’s no way you can differ from leaders in the department.
Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke asked if Selebano feared Mahlangu.
He answered: “Yes. It was tense.”
He was cross-examined about the psychiatric society’s request to stop the department moving patients to Takalani, where 38 patients later died after being told the Gauteng High Court it was a suitable place.
Hassim said Selebano cooked the books. It came out that he backdated the licencing of NGOs after closing them.