- DA MP Siviwe Gwarube alleged the Maseve Field Hospital in the North West was nothing more than an empty field.
- It has since come to light that Gwarube was not at the field hospital in question - but rather on another plot of land.
- The health ministry called Gwarube a "liar" and accused her of trying to score cheap political points.
The Ministry of Health has labelled DA MP Siviwe Gwarube a "liar", accusing her of "petty politicking, which can only be attributed to immaturity", after she alleged the Maseve Field Hospital in the North West is still an empty field.
Gwarube took to Twitter on Thursday, alleging that she visited the Maseve Field Hospital, only to find an empty field and no construction taking place.
This after Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, in a parliamentary reply in June, said the hospital was 90% complete and would have 200 beds.
In June Minister of Health, @DrZweliMkhize told me the NW Maseve Field Hospital is 90% complete incl the 200 beds in Rustenburg. This morning I visited the provincial hospital and the field hospital and it remains an empty field and no construction is happening. What’s going on? pic.twitter.com/XJUUBBvG3O— Siviwe Gwarube (@Siviwe_G) August 6, 2020
In a statement, the health ministry spokesperson Lwazi Manzi said Gwarube was corrected by a senior official from the department, but continued her allegations and "preposterously changed her story to suit her false narrative and cheap political agenda of opposing anything by government, to the extent of her lying and misleading the public".
Mkhize then apparently called Gwarube to ask her why she would lie; the parliamentary reply clearly refers to Maseve Hospital, but she was visiting another site.
"She apologised and admitted she had made a mistake. She acknowledged the minister had never said anything about the site she visited, and that she could have heard it from a third party," Manzi said.
"The minister graciously accepted her apology, in an effort to engage in a civil and honourable manner with a fellow parliamentary member."
Manzi said that, following the phone call, Gwarube went back to social media and referred to the call as the minister's attempt to explain himself to her.
@DrZweliMkhize’s response to me refered to the donated Maseve Hospital as being complete. This is not where I went to go to check progress. I checked progress of the earmarked hospital site that has been in that state since May despite us nearing the peak in infections.— Siviwe Gwarube (@Siviwe_G) August 7, 2020
"When the minister called her, he believed that she may be confused. The future field hospital to be constructed by the province was never discussed with Gwarube and had nothing to do with the minister's response she quotes from Parliament.
"It is regrettable that she has decided to continue with her petty politicking, which can only be attributed to immaturity.
"From her statement now, it is clear Ms Gwarube is desperately searching for publicity to remain relevant. It is unacceptable for her to lie to the public. It is clear she asked a question and deliberately distorted the answer. That is dishonesty and abuse of parliamentary privilege."
Gwarube later corrected herself, noting that the field she visited has been earmarked for another field hospital, which has not yet been built.
She later released a statement, saying although her tweet was ambiguous, and she regrets that it was not clearer, Mkhize had "missed an opportunity" to give clarity on the plans of the North West province to deal with rising Covid-19 infections.
"More specifically, he could have given feedback on the status of the building of the Job Shimankane Tabana (JST) field hospital," she said.
Gwarube and legislature colleagues had visited the JST provincial hospital, and said an open site next to it was earmarked to build a 300-bed field hospital. It has not been built.
"I expressed disappointment and confusion on social media about the state of the Job Shimankane Tabana field hospital, which is still rubble when work on it began in May.
"The North West Department of Health has, subsequent to the visit, also confirmed that a field hospital for Rustenburg is in the pipeline.
"The contention here remains: How come the North West Department of Health is yet to complete the field hospital, which has been coming for months?
"What has the past five months been for, if not to prepare the health system for the impending peak?"
- Compiled by Alex Mitchley and Jenni Evans