| Life Esidimeni Inquest: NGOs struggled with funds a month after patients were moved

Wednesday, 24 November
23 Nov
Problems at non-governmental organisations (NGOs) started from the first month it took in patients from Life Esidimeni.
Nonceba Sennelo, the Gauteng deputy director of mental health at the time of the project, said NGOs complained about non-payment and the unavailability of medication in the first month of receiving patients.  
On Tuesday, Sennelo gave evidence at the Life Esidimeni Inquest sitting virtually in the South Gauteng High Court.
At the end of the inquest, Judge Mmonoa Teffo will rule whether anyone can be held criminally accountable for the deaths of 144 mental healthcare patients. 
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Sennelo said that, during a follow up meeting with NGOs at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, her team found out the organisations had not been paid.

“It was the first month and they were not paid.  They were struggling with getting funds and struggling to manage their NGOs. Most of the NGOs were not paid… they [also] indicated that they struggled with medication. They were complaining about food, that they could not sustain themselves.”
She said she realised, after the patients had been moved, that some NGOs didn’t have proper licences. 
Sennelo, who has since retired, said that, before the moving of patients, she sent a letter to her boss, Dr Makgabo Manamela, to ask that the NGOs be given money to start up funds to begin their operations. 
“NGOs, when they start, struggle, and that’s why I suggested that. I don’t know what happened to the letter. I never had any feedback.”
She added: “It was a rushed project, so not all resources were in place before transferring the users.”
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She testified that she was moved from her office to the Life Esidimeni Waverley Centre because her boss, Manamela, was worried the hospital group was sabotaging the department.  
She had moved to the hospital to fast-track the project. 
“I didn’t find any sabotage. We worked well with [Life Esidimeni Waverley manager] Zanele [Buthelezi ], except she didn’t want to give us clothes. She said they were the property of Esidimeni and couldn’t give extra clothes to patients.”
Sennelo said Buthelezi refused to give extra clothes to patients when they were being transferred to the Tshepong centre. 
On the day of the move, 35 patients were supposed to be moved, but the NGO came in a bigger vehicle and left with 50 people. 
“I got feedback from the owner of the NGO that Dr Manamela said they must add more patients because that was the only time they would be able to fetch them.”
She said she agreed to hand over the extra patients, but Life Esidimeni didn’t follow proper procedure when discharging them.  
“They were given medication for seven days. They were supposed to be given 28 days [supply] because they were going to an NGO and not a hospital. Not all of them had enough clothes. Some of them didn’t have slippers.”
Sennelo said her colleague went to the laundry room to try and find more clothes for the patients.  
Once the patients were moved, she said, she was surprised by the deaths. 
“When they left Waverley, they were in satisfactory condition. I was surprised at what caused the deaths.” 
The inquest continues. 
23 Nov
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