Nkandla: A tale of two clinics

2014-03-23 14:00

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The clinics near Nkandla were deemed insufficient for the president’s needs, so he built one for his family.

The people of Nkandla often talk about Mjumpu Gcaba and her husband James.

Their pregnant daughter went into labour and, because there was no nurse on duty at the KwaNxamalala clinic, they had to go elsewhere for help to deliver the baby.

But they never made it – they all died in a car accident on the way.

The people of Nkandla spoke of the Gcabas again this week after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela revealed the clinic the state built for the personal use of President Jacob Zuma and his family cost R11.9?million.

The Gcabas died in 2009, the same year then surgeon-general Lieutenant-General Vejay Ramlakan became involved in the Nkandla project and mooted the inclusion of a clinic into the design.

In January, when Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi released the interministerial task team report on Nkandla, Ramlakan said there was a separate access route to the clinic which would allow for it to be used by the community.

But Madonsela’s report reveals the clinic was never intended for public use.

A high-ranking military source, who spoke on condition of anonymity this week, agreed.

“A real clinic would be the responsibility of the national department of health but it is clear this clinic was planned from the beginning to be for the sole and only use of the [homestead’s] residents.”

Zuma, who spends most weekends at Nkandla, is treated by the presidential medical team from the SA National Defence Force’s medical health services and has a doctor on call around the clock.

But City Press has reliably learnt Zuma cannot use the clinic at his Nkandla homestead either because it has not been fitted with any equipment, and the badly constructed building is falling apart.

A senior military source said the clinic itself “is nothing but a shell” and in a bad state of repair.

“It is a sad state of affairs of a project that went horribly wrong. If you consider the amount of money paid to do the work at Nkandla, it is unbelievable to see the real state of the buildings,” he said.

The area’s two hospitals at Nkandla and Eshowe, and the 11 clinics serving a population of more than 100?000 people were deemed insufficient for Zuma’s needs.

The interministerial task team report on Nkandla said: “The facilities are too far away and unable to meet the standards or the nature of healthcare required for the president and his household.

“At the time, the nearest facility with the required standard was two hours away in Durban.”

Residents from deep rural Nkandla complain most of their clinics are poorly equipped and understaffed, providing dismal healthcare.

Mfundo Bhengu, an unemployed graduate student

in the area, told of a protest in Nkandla last year in which residents threatened to burn down the local Manyane clinic.

This was after a woman known as Ma Sibiya experienced fainting spells and weight loss after collecting her blood pressure medication.

“The medicine they gave her is meant for the mentally disabled,” said a friend of hers who asked not to be named.

“The after-effects were scary. You should have seen her. She lost weight and started fainting repeatedly.”

Bhengu said it was not the first time patients had been incorrectly treated there.

“They once gave my uncle the wrong injection. He was totally out of it for a couple of months.”

Not far from Zuma’s home is the crowded KwaNxamalala clinic, which has to cope with a large influx of patients from surrounding villages.

“You should see the queues of sick people who have to wait for hours to get attention,” said local Ntezani Thusi.

Thusi and others complain that the provincial ambulance service seldom respond to calls from people in Nkandla.

“If they do ever arrive, it is mostly too late,” he said.

In emergencies, most people hire cars from wealthier villagers to take them to hospital.

“Some car owners charge as much as R1?000 a trip and sometimes double that if it’s during the night.”

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