Letters | Stop scapegoating foreign nationals

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Religious leaders march against xenophobia, which has been a shameful aspect of SA society for the past decade. Picture: Ian Carbutt
Religious leaders march against xenophobia, which has been a shameful aspect of SA society for the past decade. Picture: Ian Carbutt


Dear Editor,

The editorial “Health: Let’s deal with facts” (Published August 28 2022) raises the important issue of public healthcare and the scarcity of its availability, especially with foreign nationals using public healthcare facilities. But, is our health crisis truly the fault of immigration?

The editorial, thankfully, explains near its conclusion that foreign nationals aren’t purely to blame – but still devotes most of the article to effectively blaming the shortage of resources on immigrants. This is a xenophobic trend – a term that should condemn and explain the toxic side of many South Africans’ mindsets.

The purpose of public health isn’t to privilege citizens over foreigners. Most citizens in South Africa have no more claim over using public healthcare than a foreign national. Because the only genuine way to determine entitlement to public health should be if someone is a taxpayer. And, as the SA Revenue Service's stats show, most South Africans are not taxpayers. In fact, a foreign national who buys goods that have VAT included is on par with many South Africans in terms of paying for healthcare.

The purpose of public health is to stop public health crises. We don’t want people dying in the streets. We don’t want preventable diseases ending the lives of anyone. It doesn’t matter if they were born here or across the continent. We grant them access to our hospitals because we don’t want them to suffer or die.

Resources are scarce – but denying foreign nationals access to healthcare is not the answer. The answer is increased private sector involvement in the sector to lower prices, increase supply and ease the burden on the public sector.

We need to stop scapegoating foreign nationals. The place of our birth is arbitrary. What matters is our contribution to society. And that is not exclusive to locals alone.

Nicholas Woode-Smith, Cape Town

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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