After four days on the stand, Gauteng's suspended director of mental health care services Makgabo Manamela finally apologised to family members of the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
The protracted tragedy saw the deaths, in 2016 to 2017, of 143 mentally ill people who were moved into the care of largely inexperienced‚ underfunded and poorly equipped non-governmental organisations.
The decision to move them out into the community came after Gauteng health department terminated its contract with the Life Esidimeni group, which had been caring for the patients, allegedly to save costs.
"I regret that their loved ones passed away. I am so sorry for their loss. They are never alone. That was very painful. I would appreciate it if the families would find closure," Manamela said at the Esidimeni hearings on Tuesday.
According to The Star, Manamela was responding to a question from retired chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, who is leading the Life Esidimeni alternative dispute-resolution process. He asked her who should be held accountable, and she responded: "If they [my team] gave me the right or wrong information, I will be held accountable. We have to take responsibility. The leadership of the project must be held accountable. We have to take responsibility."
However, when Moseneke asked whether anyone should be criminally charged, Manamela responded that it was matter to be decided by the police.
Patients starved to death and found with paper in their stomaches, from the pages they ate in desperation.— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) November 27, 2017
Human beings loaded like cattle, in the back of bakkies.
Evidence of rampant fraud, irregularity, maladministration.
And then, at the end of all this blatant evil, THIS: https://t.co/uQDeQPZpNS
"I am willing to be questioned by the SAPS," she said. "I am waiting for the SAPS to call me. If they do, I will go."
On Monday, Manamela also slammed the media, claiming that they were out to tarnish the image of the Gauteng department of health.
Manamela: The media was out to tarnish the image of the department during this project.#LifeEsidimeni— Bhekisisa M&G Health (@Bhekisisa_MG) November 27, 2017
Until Tuesday, Manamela had continued to insist she bore no responsibility for the deaths, reported TimesLive.
Here are what some had to say on Twitter about the Manamela's responses during the cross-examination process.
This is of the biggest tragedies to ever hit our country. Cannot grasp such cruelty. I pray for justice.— Terri-Anne Nell (@TerriNell15) November 27, 2017
#Manamela playing the victim while people are dead and families still trying yo get closure. Families can't even start to mourn their loved ones. She's only thinking about herself. All leadership must be held accountable.— LoveLife (@Mphora10) November 28, 2017
It is painful to realize that #Manamela is trained in psychiatry , yet she acted with such impunity and disdain towards the most vulnerable people in society . Instead of taking responsibility , she is busy deflecting responsibility and being evasive #LifeEsidimeni @sindivanzyl— Sinabo M (Vilakazi) (@Masengwa) November 23, 2017
It's such an awful tragedy & then made 100 times worse when someone shifts blame or just doesn't seem to care— Tina Cartwright (@Tina_AndyC) November 27, 2017
Justice Moseneke is showing what Leadership and Accountability should look like. #LifeEsidimeni— Tebogo Letsoalo (@Tebza_L) November 20, 2017
Didn't we have a special channel for the Oscar court case? Can't we have a special channel for the #LifeEsidimeni arbitration hearings and any subsequent court case? This is such a huge story not everyone can live stream to keep up.— IG: ZA_EMPRESS (@Kara_mello) November 20, 2017