One of the Life Esidimeni patients, who died hundreds of miles from his family, was disturbed during his funeral rites by officials from the Gauteng Ministry of Health who wanted to perform a late autopsy.
Dr. Richard Lebethe, a senior department official said he feared evidence would be lost if Sizwe Hlatshwayo was buried, he told the Pretoria Supreme Court investigation of Life Esidimeni yesterday.
Hlatshwayo has been since Patient at Life Esidimeni for 16 years, years before he was transferred without his family’s knowledge.
“The fear was that if Sizwe was buried, we would have to exhume and lose important evidence,” Lebethe said in his statement. “The family was upset that the department was now requesting the autopsy because they had the body without it for so long.” 144 mentally ill patients died of neglect with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across the province.
They were relocated from Life Esidimeni facilities after the MEC for Health Qedani Mahlangu terminated the contract to order Save costs.
Lebethe said he was not directly involved in the marathon project, but worked in parallel with the psychiatry department to review part of the NGO’s infrastructure.
He said Mahlangu directed this to visit the NGOs. One of them was Precious Angels, where 23 people died.
“The facility was in a mountainous area that was raised and led into the house with many steps. The type of area, layout and height were bad for the patients, “said Lebethe.
Lebethe also visited Takalani, where he was impressed with the physical structure.
The Evidence Leader Pieter Luyt asked Lebethe if he hadn’t worried about the support from the NGOs. “Did you inquire about the nursing staff, the level of nursing and care?” He asked.
Lebethe replied: “I went there to check whether the infrastructure was ready.”
< p> Luyt bought Cassey Chambers’ testimony that the department did not cover the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) when it came to reviewing NGOs.
“I was not involved in this planning” said Lebethe.
The investigation continues.