The following remarks were made today by DA Leader, John Steenhuisen, at the launch of his “Real State of the Nation” Tour in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. Steenhuisen was joined by DA Gauteng Provincial Leader John Moodey, DA Shadow Minister of Health, Siviwe Gwarube, and DA Gauteng Shadow MEC of Health, Jack Bloom:
My fellow South Africans
Today marks the start of my tour across South Africa to gauge the real state of the nation ahead of the President’s SONA next month. I have sat through enough of these SONAs to know that they seldom represent the true state of our nation. On this tour I intend to see for myself, and get first-hand accounts of the issues South Africans grapple with every day.
Later today I will meet with business owners in Ekurhuleni, after which I will visit Tembisa where I will go door-to-door to speak to, and listen to, as many people as I can about their challenges and fears. If we want to tackle our country’s issues, then we have to be honest and informed about what these issues are.
But first I would like to speak about the critical issue of healthcare – both here in Gauteng, and in the whole of South Africa. As you know, government is determined to push through with its ill-advised National Health Insurance, despite mounting evidence and expert opinion pointing out just how bad an idea this is. Public healthcare is failing in every single ANC-run province, and millions of people are suffering as a result. The very last thing we need is more government control over healthcare.
What we certainly don’t need is an even larger budget under the control of a government that just can’t seem to keep their hands off the money or do the right thing. Yesterday we learnt that Health Minster Zweli Mkhize has appointed his niece, Sibusisiwe Zulu, as his Department Chief of Staff, despite her facing serious allegations of corruption. These allegations relate to her time as non-executive director at the PIC, when she allegedly approved R6bn worth of transactions for her partner, Lawrence Mulaudzi through which she funded her lavish lifestyle.
This is also not the first time Zulu has landed herself a plush job, allegedly thanks to her uncle’s position. Back in 2012 she was appointed to the KZN provincial gambling and betting board, despite having no track record or experience. Mkhize denied similar claims of nepotism at the time, but this latest appointment appears to confirm the pattern.
Recent history has taught us that more government control inevitably means more looting and mismanagement. This building here is a seven-storey monument to everything that is wrong with healthcare under the ANC government, and a stark reminder of why we must fight the proposed NHI with all we’ve got. This is the notorious Kempton Park Hospital – built in 1978 and closed down by the ANC provincial government in 1996.
For 23 years this hospital has stood abandoned and in limbo – neither condemned to be torn down, nor committed to be refurbished. During this time, the patient load on the surrounding hospitals – and particularly the nearby Tembisa Hospital – has increased to near breaking point.
Just last week we learnt the harrowing news that ten infants died at Tembisa Hospital due to Klebsiella pneumonia – a bacterial infection which typically occurs where there is overcrowding, understaffing and poor hygiene. And this was not a first here in Gauteng. In 2018, six babies died from Klebsiella at Thelle Mogoerane Hospital in Vosloorus. These were all preventable deaths.
Healthcare in this province – as in so many other ANC-run areas – is simply not coping. And yet here stood an abandoned hospital for over two decades, full of priceless equipment simply left to rot. CAT scanners, X-ray machines, theatre lights, incubators, anaesthetic machines, along with hundreds and hundreds of beds, were guarded here at a cost of almost a million Rand a year, and today they lie broken, outdated and worthless.
Whatever the reasons for closing the hospital all those years ago, there was plenty of time to devise a plan to refurbish and reopen it. But, as with so many other ANC projects, this was always a bridge too far.
So if you still need reminding of why an ANC-run National Health Insurance is a terrible idea, just take a stroll down the decaying corridors of this hospital. If they could not utilise an existing hospital building to ease the pressure on the province’s creaking healthcare, what chance do they have of rolling out and properly managing the NHI?
The reality is we don’t need, and nor can we afford, the NHI. The R220 billion we already spend annually on healthcare should buy us a lot more than we are currently getting, if we just spend it more wisely and keep it out of corrupt hands.
The DA’s proposal for healthcare in SA – what we call the Sizani Universal Healthcare Plan – can achieve far more within the existing budget. This plan is based around a universal subsidy for every eligible person in South Africa, allowing them to choose whether to buy private or public sector coverage with their subsidy.
Sizani will afford all citizens a basic package of care which would give them free health services at the point of entry across any health facility across the country. Other aspects of the plan include additional funding for the training of nursing staff, expanded maternal and child health programmes, a single number national emergency service and an expanded programme for building clinics in underserved areas.
Importantly, Sizani doesn’t rely on the destruction of private healthcare in order to offer quality healthcare for all.
Fellow South Africans, this has to be the year in which we all push back against the destructive policies and plans of this ANC government. They have made their intentions clear on land expropriation, on healthcare, on asset prescription for pension funds, on the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank and even the nationalisation of sport.
All of this will be disastrous for us as a country, but we don’t have to stand for it. Wherever you can, you must speak out against these plans. Voice your objections, sign petitions, make submissions. Let them know that you will not allow our country to be dragged backwards. In this democracy, the power lies in your hands, not theirs.
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