JOHANNESBURG, December 4 – Suspended Gauteng health boss Barney Selebano has failed to have a subpoena instructing him to testify at the Life Esidimeni arbitration set aside by the South Gauteng High Court.
Judge Daniel Berger on Monday dismissed Selebano’s application with costs.
“The applicant has failed to establish the basis upon which the subpoena can be challenged. The application is therefore dismissed with costs, including costs of two counsel,” said Berger.
Selebano’s legal representative, advocate Craig Watt-Pringle, argued last week that subpoenaing his client to testify at the arbitration would be akin to subjecting him to another hearing as he was already facing disciplinary action by his employer, the Gauteng health department.
Opposing the application, William Mukhari, for the State, said the arbitration was an open process, and with Selebano having been at the helm and in charge of former Life Esidimeni patients’ transfers, he should testify and clarify his role at the time.
Selebano was one of the top officials fingered in the fatal Life Esidimeni project that saw 143 psychiatric patients die at unlicensed NGOs due to neglect and starvation.
He was suspended in February for gross misconduct and incompetence and his conduct was reported to the HPCSA (Health Professional Council of South Africa) as recommended by Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba’s damning report into the deaths of the patients.
The marathon project to transfer patients from Life Esidimeni to unlicenced NGOs was overseen by the then health MEC (member of Executive Council) Qedani Mahlangu, who tendered her resignation in the wake of Makgoba’s report.
She has been subpoenaed to testify at the arbitration and is set to testify in January.Selebano was expected to testify today [Monday] as per the subpoena served on him in November, but lodged an urgent application to have it set aside.
Advocate Kirsty McLean, representing Selebano for the judgement, told Berger that her client would appeal the ruling.