SA health system was better under apartheid, says Malema but Motsoaledi disagrees

EFF leader Julius Malema  (Chester Makana, News24)
EFF leader Julius Malema (Chester Makana, News24)

Johannesburg – Public healthcare services were better during apartheid than they are now under the ANC government, EFF leader Julius Malema claimed on Monday. 

Malema was referring to what he called a "national health crisis", which, he said, the EFF is planning to expose.

He explained how a functioning clinic in Limpopo, built during apartheid, was closed down by the current government. 

"The EFF in my ward, marched day in and out to demand that that clinic must be opened and then when we say to you apartheid was better than these people, you think we are exaggerating.

"We are speaking to the practical things that we see. Here is a clinic under apartheid, functioning, democracy comes, the clinic has collapsed... Now they are playing gambling (sic)."

The EFF plenum that was held over the weekend declared 2018 the year of public healthcare. Malema added that while he loved Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, it was his view that the minister was responsible for the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

He cautioned journalists against falling for the health minister's "charm".

"He is too talkative [but] no action. Journalists like him because he answers the phone himself... We don't want a minister who goes to (Radio) 702, we want a minister in hospitals. He is busy over nothing. He misled all of us," claimed Malema.

Motsoaledi responded to Malema's claims saying that while he accepted the health system was overburdened, conditions in hospitals were currently far better than they were under apartheid.  

'I used to work in hospitals with no doctors'

"I used to work in hospitals that were serving very few people during apartheid. Now we serve the whole of SADC (Southern African Development Community). Back then, I used to work in hospitals with no doctors," Motsoaledi said. 

On the more than 140 deaths involved in the transfer of mentally ill patients from Life Esidimeni facilities to various NGOs, some of which were unlicensed, Motsoaledi said he had given his testimony at the arbitration hearing dealing with the matter and it was up to retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke and South Africans to judge him. 

Motsoaledi shed tears while testifying last week and said that the project should never have taken place.

READ: Motsoaledi breaks down as he apologises for Life Esidimeni tragedy

"I feel people have been betrayed and I also felt betrayed as the minister of health. This has tarnished the health system of the country," Motsoaledi said. 

"It is quite painful and whoever did that must be charged," he said at the time. 

The EFF has vowed to use its resources to expose the current health crisis.

Malema said the red berets would be going to hospitals and clinics across the country to inspect whether staff members are skilled and whether medication is made available to patients. 

"It is also a fact that the massacre that occurred under Life Esidimeni (sic) is a normal state of affairs in many hospitals across the country due to negligence and incapacity in our collapsing public healthcare system. We say this shall continue no more. Not in our name, not under our watch and not in our lifetime."

The party also resolved to establish a public healthcare office that would receive complaints from members of the public. These would be responded to within 48 hours, he said. 

"We shall expose all public health institutions that are in a bad condition. We shall name and shame nurses, doctors and all health practitioners who are involved in negligence, corruption and humiliation of our people. We have established an email address and call on all who have information on public healthcare challenges [to make use of it]."

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