Eastern Cape's failed medical scooter project: Call for Sindiswa Gomba's head

The Scooter Project in the Eastern Cape.
The Scooter Project in the Eastern Cape.
  • Gomba suggested to Parliament that, with the scooters, she was trying to address a crisis created by the apartheid system. 
  • The DA accused Gomba of shifting the blame for her failures and has called for her immediate sacking. 
  • Gomba said the Eastern Cape has bothered "others" by being bold enough to launch the scooter project to address the crisis.

Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba has been accused of shifting the blame for her department's maligned R10 million scooter project.

The controversial scooter project, launched on 12 June in East London, was announced as an answer to address the humiliating challenge of people pushed in wheelbarrows to hospitals in rural areas.

However, the project was viewed as a failure by the public, with even national Health Minister Zweli Mkhize admitting the scooters do not meet the requirements to be used as ambulances.

In a video doing the rounds on social media this week, Gomba suggested in a virtual Parliamentary meeting that there would not be a need for the scooters if it were not for the racial segregation of the oppressive apartheid system.

"The Covid-19 pandemic not only came unexpectedly, but also presented itself in a new dynamic. It has also exposed the weaknesses of our health system and that is linked to the design of apartheid infrastructure. Our people still must be dragged in wheelbarrows and put on horsebacks to access health services," said Gomba.

READ |Mkhize does a U-turn on Eastern Cape medical scooters

Gomba said while some believe the scooter initiative was wasteful expenditure, access to healthcare for all was the vision behind the project.

She claimed the Eastern Cape was bold enough to implement this intervention [scooters], and this had bothered others.

On the day of the launch, six scooters fitted with a bed, overhead gazebo, first aid kit and oxygen were unveiled by Gomba and Mkhize.

Due to mounting public outrage and questions raised over the tender for the 100 scooters, a bid adjudication committee was assembled to review the processes followed in awarding the tender.

The investigation was commissioned by the Eastern Cape Department of Health.

The project received more bad reviews when Mkhize, who initially praised it at the launch, and promised to urge other provinces to follow suit, shocked the country by making an about turn.

He told Parliament the scooters did not meet the basic criteria for "patient transport as an ambulance".

Called for comment, the Eastern Cape's health department communications director, Siyanda Manana, and Gomba's spokesperson, Judy Ngoloyi, both declined to comment.

Manana said "there will be no further commentary from the department about the scooters".

ALSO READ | 'Cheap politicking': Mkhize slams the DA for Eastern Cape medical scooters criticism

Following Gomba's remarks, the DA has called for Gomba to be fired, and for an urgent intervention in what it called "the health crisis in the Eastern Cape".

"The health MEC, Sindiswa Gomba, should be fired with immediate effect, and her department should be put under administration," said DA MP Lindy Wilson.

Wilson said: "MEC Gomba has once again tried to shift the blame for her own and her department's failings, going as far as blaming apartheid for the 'Scooter Scandal'.

"There should be no doubt that apartheid was an abhorrent system, which left South African communities with incredible challenges of inequality. However, it should not be used as an excuse 26 years later to cover up the MEC and her department's hand in the 'Scooter Scandal'," said Wilson.

"The health crisis in the Eastern Cape is not new. It wasn't brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The province has been in a perpetual health crisis for years.

"The province is an unending pit, where money to update and maintain any kind of infrastructure – never mind investing in new projects – simply disappears. Not without a trace though. No - traces of it can surely be seen in the lavish lifestyles of corrupt officials, in stark contrast to the constituents of that province."

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane's spokesperson, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha, could not comment at the time of writing. His comment will be added once received.

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