After months of waiting, the Life Esidimeni arbitration finally got to hear from former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu on her role in the tragedy.
EWN reporter Masego Rahlaga, who has been covering the Life Esidimeni arbitration, says yesterday there was a huge turnout as everyone was eager to hear what Mahlangu had to say. This was especially important for the families of the Life Esidimeni victims.
It was an emotional moment. Some families, you could see they really just wanted to cry. But they wanted to stay strong, because I think they wanted to show her that they are strong and they are ready for her and they want to hear what she is going to say.— Masego Rahlaga, EWN reporter
All of these years they have been trying to speak to her. And they say she was evasive, she was arrogant, she never wanted to answer questions from the get-go. So this time, they were trying to be strong and kind of saying to her, how are you going to act this time, because now you have to account to the entire country?— Masego Rahlaga, EWN reporter
Though she did apologise, Rahlaga says that the crowd was not convinced. For Rahlaga, it appeared that every time Mahlangu's voice shook or she tried to show emotion, the crowd were not having it.
She adds that it is unusual for witnesses to have opening statements, as normally they speak after the cross-examination. But, Rahlaga thinks that retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke allowed her to speak freely so that her testimony could be looked at closely.
I think the retired Deputy Chief Justice wanted her to say what she wanted to say, so that if there is anything that is suspicious in that speech or in that statement they can then nail her on it - and later on they actually did.— Masego Rahlaga, EWN reporter
As to the contents of her testimony, Rahlaga says that Mahlangu says she does not remember much, and shifted a lot of the blame onto others. According to Rahlaga, shifting blame has been common in these hearings.
The entire time it was a blame game. This entire process has actually been a blame game from every health official that's testified. A lot of people laid the blame on [Mahlangu], and obviously she came on and said it was not her.— Masego Rahlaga, EWN reporter
The families were saying and wondering how in the same breath you could say that you take responsibility or accountability for what happened - because apparently in government those are two different things - and in the same breath say 'but no it wasn't my fault'.— Masego Rahlaga, EWN reporter
Listen to the full conversation below:
This article first appeared on 702 : Life Esidimeni: Family of victims did not let Mahlangu express sadness