10/11/2017 13:30 SAST | Updated 10/11/2017 13:31 SAST

Life Esidimeni Death Toll Climbs To 143, Qedani Mahlangu To Testify In January

Former Gauteng MEC for health Qedani Mahlangu's representatives said she would be available to testify between January 22 and 26, 2018.


Former Gauteng MEC for health Qedani Mahlangu's legal representatives have told the Life Esidimeni hearings that she would be willing to come testify in January 2018.

The arbitration hearings started more than an hour late on Friday as her legal representatives met with arbitration chair former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke and the legal representatives for Section27, Legal Aid, Solidarity, the evidence leaders and the State.

Mahlangu's legal representative told the hearings that Mahlangu would only be available to testify in January when she is expected to finish a module for her masters of business administration at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK.

Earlier this week, the university said it had suspended Mahlangu over "the severity of the allegations" against her, but her legal representative told the hearings on Friday that it had regarded the suspension as wrongful and unlawful and was planning to challenge it.

Mahlangu's representatives said she would be available to testify between January 22 and 26, 2018.

According to EWN, Mahlangu on Friday said she rejected reports in media that she had ever "refused or run away or disappeared" from the Esidimeni arbitration.

"From the beginning, in line with my conscience, I have made it clear to all authorities involved that I'm available to appear before the arbitration. As such, I need no subpoena," she said in a statement.

Veli Nhlapo/Sowetan/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Jalisile Ngqondwana, who is a mother to one of the victims, couldnt hold back tears during the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearing at Emoyeni Conference Centre, Parktown on October 09, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Death toll climbs

The number of former Life Esidimeni patients who died during and after the Gauteng mental marathon project, meanwhile, has risen to 143.

Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba was asked to review the number of patients who passed away after discrepancies emerged during the arbitration hearings.

Earlier during the hearings, the figure was updated to 141 patients who had died and another 59 who were still unaccounted for.

Makgoba's initial number was 118 patients, but taking into account the number of patients who had died until the end of September 2017, that number had increased to 143.

According to Makgoba's figures, 29 patients had died at the Cullinan Care and Rehabilitation Centre, Anchor and Siyabadinga, which all share the same premises.

Thirty eight patients had died at Mosego and Takalani in Soweto, 20 died at Precious Angels and another 13 at Tshepong.

These four facilities accounted for nearly 80% of the patients who passed away during the transfer of Life Esidimeni patients, according to Makgoba.

"Those were the high density places where people died," he said.