Working for access to quality public healthcare in South Africa since 1998
4 Oct 2016

New hope for Free State as health MEC Benny Malakoane is replaced

–        TAC commits to engaging constructively with new MEC to end Free State health crisis

BLOEMFONTEIN, TUESDAY 4th OCTOBER: The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) welcomes the news that Benny Malakoane is no longer the MEC for Health in the Free State. Under Malakoane’s watch the public healthcare system in the province has limped from crisis to crisis with people who rely on it left traumatised by death and pain. TAC has been campaigning for Malakoane’s removal for more than two years.

TAC acknowledges all the courageous whistle-blowers who have spoken out about the crisis in the public healthcare system in the province in recent years – from desperate doctors who wrote an open letter in January 2015 to the person who recently blew the whistle on unlawful stem cell trials being conducted in the province, allegedly with the full knowledge of Malakoane. We also acknowledge the work of all our partner organisations in the Free State Health Crisis Coalition, to the courageous #BopheloHouse94 who continue to fight their convictions for attending a peaceful night vigil in July 2014, and all the people who bravely testified to the People’s Commission of Inquiry into the crisis in the Free State public healthcare system in 2015.

While the removal of Malakoane from the health portfolio is a major step forward, we are under no illusion about the task ahead of us to rebuild the Free State public healthcare system. For example, in 2015 a quarter of the province’s doctors left the public sector in the province – largely due to Malakoane’s mismanagement of the healthcare system and victimisation of those who spoke out against it. Substantial efforts will have to be made to entice doctors back into the province and ensuring decent working conditions. We are committed to contributing to this rebuilding process in all its many facets.

TAC will write to new MEC for Health Butana Komphela to request a meeting to discuss the crisis in the public healthcare system in the province. Komphela was previously MEC for Police, Roads and Transport. We are committed to engaging with him constructively to bring an end to the crisis in the public healthcare system in the province. Our primary responsibility is to our members and to users of the public healthcare system. The situation in the Free State is desperate and requires urgent and serious intervention.

Some urgent issues we will raise with MEC Komphela include:

–        Fixing the ongoing crisis in hospitals across the Free State that are failing to provide effective services to those in urgent need – and ensuring the urgent reopening of Reitz Hospital;

–        Bringing an end to the Department’s non-payment of overtime for community healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, and other people who are doing work for the public healthcare system in the Free State – and ensuring sufficient numbers of health professionals to ensure proper service;

–        The reinstatement of community healthcare workers – integral to the healthcare system – under fair, formal and dignified working conditions;

–        Fixing the highly dysfunctional ambulance service that has been outsourced to a private company (Buthelezi EMS);

–        Immediate cooperation amongst all health facilities in the province and the Department with the Stop Stockouts Project (SSP) and TAC to support efforts to stop prolonged medicine stockouts and shortages;

–        Launching a full investigation into the stem cell scandal revealed on Sunday and initiating legal action if required against those responsible.

Serious concerns regarding Malakoane

We note with concern that Free State Premier Ace Magashule has appointed Malakoane as MEC for Economic and Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in the province even though Malakoane is currently facing multiple serious charges of fraud and corruption. We are disappointed that someone with such a poor record of public service has again been appointed into a position of power – even though it is no longer in the healthcare system.

In addition to Malakoane facing serious charges of fraud and corruption in a court case that has been delayed numerous times, TAC in 2015 laid additional charges of corruption against Malakoane. We are concerned that the National Prosecuting Authority has not yet taken a decision to charge Malakoane on these additional charges brought by TAC. In addition, Malakoane’s role in the stem cell scandal reported on Carte Blanche and on Spotlight on Sunday must be investigated and if any wrong-doing on his part is found by the Medicines Control Council or the Department of Health he must be charged.

TAC thanks SECTION27 for their ongoing support in fighting the crisis in the Free State healthcare system.

For more information and interviews please contact:

Anele Yawa | 079 328 1215 (for interviews)

Lotti Rutter | 081 818 8493 | lotti.rutter@tac.org.za