/ 10 July 2024

Inquest finds former health MEC Mahlangu caused Life Esidimeni deaths

Life Esidimeni: Qedani Mahlangu Testifies In South African Tragedy Arbitration
The deaths of 141 mental health patients occurred when they were moved to unlicensed, ill-equipped NGOs (Photo by Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The Life Esidimeni inquest has found that the deaths of 141 mental health patients in 2016 were caused by the negligence of former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and former Gauteng director of the mental health directorate Makgabo Manamela. 

In 2015 and 2016, more than 2 000 patients were moved to ill-equipped and unlicensed NGOs after the Gauteng health department terminated its contract with Life Esidemi

Handing down her ruling in the Pretoria high court on Wednesday, Judge Mmonoa Teffo said Mahlangu terminated the contract between Life Esidemini and the Gauteng department of health despite numerous calls by mental health experts for this not to be done. 

“Having heard all the evidence in this inquest, I have come to the conclusion that the death of the deceased was due to negligence caused by the conduct of Miss Mahlangu and Dr Manamela,” said Teffo. 

The inquest found that Manamela failed to report that the NGOs the patients were transferred to were ill-equipped to deal with the patients. 

“She could have saved many lives as she visited NGOs and could see that they were not adequately equipped and some of the personnel were not adequately qualified to care for the mental healthcare users,” said Teffo. 

He added that the deaths of nine of the patients were caused by starvation, malnutrition and pneumonia. 

According to patient records read out by Teffo, many of the patient’s bodies were not sent for an autopsy. 

The inquest into the cause of deaths began in July 2021 and concluded in November 2023.