ANC MP and former health MEC in KwaZulu-Natal Sibongiseni Dhlomo has described the National Health Insurance (NHI) as “an equaliser in terms of health. It cannot be that I need to have better health because I have a deeper pocket. We ought to have social solidarity: the young must be ready and available to carry the old.”
This is the message he has been carrying around the country as the public hearings into the NHI continue. While input from communities on this universal healthcare system has seen both support and condemnation, Dhlomo is determined to show that the NHI is what the country needs and deserves.
But can we all be equal in this unequal South Africa? And do those whom we elect to public office really care about the needs of the people who have put them in their portfolios?
Take the case of ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo. This week, he said he was not arrested by the Hawks, but had cut short his visit to Cuba to return home after he had been contacted by the law enforcement agency.
His reason for the Cuba trip? “I was in Cuba for treatment of the poison I got recently. I was given poison. I was going to finalise my treatment in Cuba. I had to cut my trip short.”
Bongo joins the long list of ANC leaders who, when sick, have chosen – it is their health and money, anyway – to leave the country and seek medical treatment elsewhere.
Back in 2014, former president Jacob Zuma was treated for poisoning in Russia.
Deputy president and former Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza was also treated in Russia for alleged poisoning. He even got a lift back home on the Guptas’ private jet.
Clearly, by their actions, our leaders are telling the public that they do not have confidence that the very public institutions over which they preside – healthcare facilities, schools and many others – can offer them the best service they need.
What is offered in public institutions is good enough for the poor citizens, while politicians take their children to the best universities and seek healthcare in foreign countries because they know that what they offer is substandard.
As with healthcare, for justice to work effectively, it must be seen to be working, and there should be no preferential treatment.
We should not have the situation where those considered important enough are asked to hand themselves to the police or the courts, while the rest of us citizens are detained in the full glare of the public and shoved into police bakkies.
So, Dhlomo need look no further to get a buy-in from citizens.
He just needs to tell, actually compel, his colleagues to use government’s healthcare facilities. That is the best PR Dhlomo can ask for.
When our leaders use public facilities, then the citizens will know that they are the best that can be offered.
Executive editor | City Press
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