Cape Town — In a viral video, Limpopo Province, MEC for Health, Phophi Ramathuba, told a migrant patient that illegal Zimbabweans were putting a strain on the provincial health system when he was told the patient she was talking to spoke Shona. “You know [President Emmerson] Mnangagwa is not giving me money to operate on you guys… You are killing my health system,” Ramathuba told the Zimbabwean.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health wrote: “We recognize that the public health system is struggling in some areas to meet the health needs of citizens and reduce backlogs due to the unpredictable number of undocumented migrants in from neighboring countries who seek health services in the country, other than asylum seekers and refugees”.
Ramathuba’s comments sparked controversy, with Zanu-PF in South Africa lambasting her. Additionally, former Zimbabwean Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara made several remarks in response to Ramathuba’s comments. “We have a general obligation in Zimbabwe to take care of our people. We have a general obligation in Malawi to take care of our people. In other words, national countries, national economies, national health systems have to operate in such a way that there is not an influx of people into South Africa looking for jobs, looking for health care We have a general obligation as national leaders , to repair our countries and national health systems,” Mutambara said.
Mutambara then directly challenged Ramathuba’s position by criticizing his failure to put the needs of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) ahead of those of South Africa, saying: “The remarks of the MEC from Limpopo are ashamed because they don’t understand that we are all Africans, that SADC – the regional arrangement – is more important than South Africa. She does not understand that these borders – Botswana, Zimbabwe – are not our borders. So for her to speak eloquently about patient victimization is shameful because we have to put region before country, African before South African, African before Zimbabwean, so we need more solidarity, we need more awareness among our leaders and the MEC Limpopo has demonstrated the misunderstanding of pan-Africanism and a lack of understanding of regional solidarity.”
Requests for action in South Africa
National Union of Education, Health and Allied Workers (Nehawu) and Civil Service Union Hospersa called on Ramathuba to apologize for his statements, with Nehawu also recommending an overhaul of the provincial health department, News24 reports. Nehawu Provincial Secretary Moses Maubane said: “We cannot blame the challenges on the people of Zimbabwe. Let’s just say the system needs to be overhauled. We need to change the system. They [Zimbabweans] have the right to be treated in the event of illness. »
The Progressive Health Forum called for Ramathuba to be fired over the comments, ENCA reports. The Forum’s Professor Alex van den Heever said Ramathuba had to face the consequences because of his position as a senior government official. “There are so many things wrong, one is the Hippocratic oath, but she wasn’t in that situation as a doctor and she wasn’t there as a doctor and also able to be able to see patients or even talk to them or challenge their conduct in any way. She was in many ways a private person when she stood there in front of that patient and if I walked into a hospital and that I would start talking to a patient like that, you know I should be stopped right away. It’s totally inappropriate,” he said.
According News24, poor management of the Limpopo health system and lack of internal controls are to blame for its limited resources. Data between 2016 and 2021 shows an increase in billions related to medical-legal claims against the Department of Health, including those related to cerebral palsy at birth. Professor Alex van den Heever, Chair of Studies in the Administration and Management of Social Security Systems at the School of Governance at the University of the Witwatersrand, found that according to the 2020/21 Annual Report, US$534 million in cerebral palsy claims made up the US$712 million leveled claims at the department. “It’s quite significant, and it’s a liability to watch, and it could be, although unconfirmed, suggestive of negligent practices in the province. It correlates with maternal mortality rates, as cerebral palsy occurs during childbirth,” Van den Heever said.
Twitter reacts to Ramatuba
The opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), have both called for Ramathuba’s impeachment. The DA wrote in a tweet that Ramathuba was “irresponsible” and that his words risked inciting violence and hatred. The EFF, meanwhile, criticized Ramatuba’s “cruelty” and “gesture” in a tweet to them.
The reactions on Twitter sparked multiple reactions, with some tweets reading:
“Those who think Dr Phophi Ramatuba is xenophobic are free to go and stay in Zimbabwe, Nigeria or Mozambique.” – @MoK081425
‘Health guy in Limpopo Phophi Ramathuba must be fired immediately for attacking sick patients in hospital ANC hates Africans’ – @NethonondaBles8
“Dr. Phophi Ramatuba has done nothing wrong except be rude. An illegal immigrant cannot benefit from state resources. Deportation should be the first action, not service delivery.” – @Ori_RSA
“So Dr. Ramathuba is being attacked for putting South Africans first?.. So foreigners should seek treatment first before South Africans? Illegal foreigners?… Am I missing something here?.. So we pay taxes and illegal aliens get treatment first?” – @T5HIVHASE
“The truth is that Ramathuba is just saying what the majority of our neighbors in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana are saying, they are fed up with us. The solution is to fix Zimbabwe so that our citizens are not treated like lepers next door” – @Mathuthu