Makhura says health officials ‘played games’ to hide ugly truth

Bettie Molefe the mother of the late Sophie Molefe, is seen becoming emotional during a press briefing, 1 February 2017, at the Medical Research Council building, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Bettie Molefe the mother of the late Sophie Molefe, is seen becoming emotional during a press briefing, 1 February 2017, at the Medical Research Council building, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Premier says disciplinary action will be taken against public servants fingered for gross negligence.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced on Wednesday that Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, fingered widely in the health ombudsman’s report for negligence, has resigned.

“Today is indeed a sad day that so many of our citizens have died under circumstances that could have been avoided. I would like to announce that last night I received a letter of resignation from Ms Qedani Mahlangu as the MEC for Health, and as a member of the Gauteng provincial legislature. I would have taken action because, in any case, this is a very serious matter,” Makhura told reporters at a media briefing in Pretoria.

“She fully understood that if something goes profoundly wrong in the area where you have executive authority, you have to take direct accountability and not pass the buck to junior officials. Accordingly, I intend to appoint the former deputy minister of health who is also former MEC for health in Gauteng, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, as the new MEC for health pending the amendment of the ANC list in the Gauteng legislature and her swearing in – which should take place in the next few days.”

Regarding disciplinary action on the public servants fingered for gross negligence and other violations in the Ombudsman’s report, Makhura said heads will roll.

“I have instructed the director-general in the office of the premier, Ms Phindile Baleni, to urgently institute appropriate action to deal with the recommendation of the ombud. You know that when dealing with public servants, this is regulated by the law and we have to do everything in accordance with the law. The law requires that before we suspend an official, we have to write them a letter, asking them why they should not be suspended,” said Makhura.

“The minister [Aaron Motsoaledi] has spoken of his distress and anger. As the premier of the province … the issue of hiding exactly what the information was, wasn’t only to the ombud but also to me. At every given point when we were following up on this matter … the same game was being played.

“I am clear that there will be full consequences for all that. In some instances, it was fraudulent activity. Our system of governance will ensure that there are full consequences. When we say there will be full consequences, officials in our province precisely know what we mean. They may run to courts but there will be full consequences and that’s what I want to assure South Africa.”

Makhura said Mahlangu had promised to make a public statement.

It emerged on Wednesday that at least 94 mentally ill patients died between March to December 2016 in Gauteng. Among other recommendations, Health Ombud, Prof Malegapuru Makgoba, had earlier challenged Makhura to review Mahlangu’s suitability for her high level job.

“The Premier of the Gauteng province must, in the light of the findings herein, consider the suitability of the MEC for Health, Ms Qedani Mahlangu to continue in her current role as MEC for health,” Makgoba said while releasing his report into the deaths of psychiatric patients in Gauteng.

Makgoba revealed that in contrast to the widely reported deaths of 36 patients, at least 94 psychiatric patients had actually died between March and December 2016.

“All the 27 NGOs to which patients were transferred operated under invalid licences. Therefore, all patients who died in these NGOs died in unlawful circumstances,” said Makgoba.

Motsoaledi said the revelations had angered him.

“Am I embarrassed? This goes beyond embarrassment. I am distressed and very angry,” said Motsoaledi.

Some family members of the deceased patients wept during the presentation of the report.

– African News Agency

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