The former Gauteng heath MEC Qedani Mahlangu, under whom the botched relocation of former Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients took place, has been subpoenaed to appear before the arbitration hearing in December.
Mahlangu had indicated that she would only be available at the end of January 2018.
”The [former] MEC is represented by a law firm, Ngcebetsha Madlanga attorneys. She has indicated through her attorneys that she would appear here between 21 and 31 January … we have however, taken a decision to subpoena her to appear on December 6,” attorney for the state Tebogo Hutamo said on Monday.
He added that it had been difficult to trace Mahlangu. Hutamo had initially told the arbitration that Mahlangu could not appear as she was preparing for examinations overseas.
”The only difficulty is on her whereabouts … her attorneys have been requested to provide her formal address to ensure delivery of the subpoena.”
Mahlangu’s whereabouts had been a bone of contention after it was reported that she was in the United Kingdom furthering her studies at the London School of Economics (LSE).
The Mail & Guardian reported on Saturday that the LSE had no record of Mahlangu furthering her studies at the institution or her registration as a student.
On Sunday, the African National Congress (ANC) in Gauteng came to the defence of beleaguered Mahlangu, rejecting suggestions that the organisation does not know her whereabouts, and that she was reluctant to appear at the arbitration.
ANC media liaison officer, Motalatale Modiba, said Mahlangu requested leave of absence from her provincial executive committee responsibilities at the end of August this year to be able to travel overseas for purposes of pursuing her post-graduate studies.
“Therefore any suggestion that the organisation does not know her whereabouts is incorrect. Comrade Qedani is still an elected member of of the provincial executive committee. The referral of her matter to the provincial integrity committee is something that is being processed internally,” Modiba said.
Mahlangu is widely blamed for the botched relocation of mental patients more than 3 000 former Life Esidimeni patients to unlicensed NGOs, where 141 of them died due to starvation and neglect. Fifty nine of the patients are still unaccounted for.
Other top officials subpoenaed to appear are suspended head of the provincial department of health Barney Selebano, director of mental health Makgabo Manamela.
They were suspended in the wake of the Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba’s damning report on the Esidimeni tragedy, released in February this year. Hutamo said Selebano and Manamela were reluctant to appear at the hearing as they were appealing their suspensions and challenging Makgoba’s findings.
Arbitration chairman Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said hearing would wrap up by the end of this year.
”A subpoena does not give witnesses a choice of when to appear … it gives them a date on when to appear. It is important to say that this proceedings will end this year, and not later than the end of December 2017.”