UPDATE: Gauteng health MEC does about-turn, will no longer sue eNCA reporter over crowded maternity ward visuals

Newly appointed MEC for health Bandile Masuku at the swearing-in of members of the new Gauteng executive council. Picture: Palesa Dlamini.
Newly appointed MEC for health Bandile Masuku at the swearing-in of members of the new Gauteng executive council. Picture: Palesa Dlamini.
Update: The Gauteng Health Department on Saturday said MEC Bandile Masuku had engaged with the management of eNCA and that he now “has no desire to engage any further on this matter and will not be pursuing any legal action”.

Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku might have publicly apologised for his utterances about the overcrowded maternity ward at the Mamelodi Hospital in Pretoria, but is taking legal action against eNCA reporter Zikhona Tshona.

Masuku claims that the video clip played during a news bulletin on the free-to-air channel on Wednesday, was an off the record conversation which Tshona should not have used.

“I will be taking legal action against her personally, not as an MEC, but as an individual because my professional standing has been put into question.

I told her I did not consent and it’s unfair

The second thing is that when she told me after she had recorded [the conversation] that she was going to use the recording, I told her I did not consent and it’s unfair. And she [still] proceeded to do it. So maybe this is how people get their fame,” he said.

In the recording, Tshona asked Masuku about the overcrowding at the hospital’s maternity ward.

Instead of simply responding to that, the MEC questioned the authenticity of the video. He then asked why the mothers who had given birth had not gone home.

Tshona has since taken to social media to clear her name: “Just to set the record straight, I explained to the MEC that I will be recording from the time he viewed the footage, so that I could get his reaction to them and get visuals of him watching.

He was fully aware that the camera was rolling and he could have said cut...”

Masuku said there was a context to why he was taking legal action – this was not the first time Tshona had done this to an MEC.

I cannot, just after one incident, be reduced to someone who does not care

“I cannot, just after one incident, be reduced to someone who does not care. But there is a context. The manner in which the journalist did it ... it’s not the first time. She apparently does this, she brings a video footage to an MEC and says comment. I think this is how unscrupulous she is, just to create a story. She got a story, credit to her,” he said.

A concerned relative of a woman stuck in the ward, which has been nicknamed Marikana, submitted the footage of the crowded ward to eNCA. It showed pregnant women and new mothers laying on mattresses on the floor, with barely any space between them.

Masuku said the women seen in the video were not patients but mothers who were stuck at the hospital because of limited public transport during the national lockdown.

READ: Five million Covid-19 tests for Gauteng by June

“These individuals ordinarily do not have to sleep in a hospital, they have been discharged. They come in the morning to breastfeed, particularly those babies who are in the intensive care unit – then they leave.”

The MEC also said the managers at the hospital were not aware of the issue. “There was an administrative lapse where the person who was supposed to report the matter to the chief executive officer or somebody [senior] did not.”

Masuku said the matter had been resolved and more space had been allocated to mothers to ensure that a similar situation didn’t happen again.

“After the whole incident, something has been done for them, mothers have been given space where they can lodge. Ordinarily these people are not patients, they are not on our records,” he said.

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