The Democratic Alliance (DA) will today be laying criminal charges against the KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Ms Nomagugu Simelane- Zulu for blocking members of parliament from conducting oversight inspections in the province’s health facilities.
Yesterday I undertook to visit Stanger Hospital and the adjacent field hospital which is being built in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This oversight inspection was meant to be followed by another to the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in the province which has been plagued with challenges over the past 5 months.
While Members of Parliament are empowered to conduct unannounced oversight inspections at any public institution, because of the pressure placed on the system by the pandemic, we wrote to MEC Simelane- Zulu and her Head of Department last week alerting them to the inspection as a matter of courtesy.
Upon arrival at Stanger Hospital, my colleague who serves in the Health Portfolio Committee in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and I were blocked by security and later the police were called to attempt to forcibly remove us from outside the premises where we waited patiently for the hospital management.
Despite numerous calls to the MEC and HOD explaining the provisions of the Constitution, the rules of Parliament and the importance of oversight work, this was met with antagonism and misplaced arrogance which is underscored by a misunderstanding of the law.
The hospital management was honest in stating that they were instructed to refuse us entry into the facility. This is despite MEC Simelane – Zulu’s assertion that they were not aware of the oversight visit, a fact which is neither here nor there.
This MEC has effectively barred all oversight inspections in the province unless they have been authorized by her, a fundamentally illegal protocol which facility management follows due to fear of victimisation. Clearly the MEC does not understand the constitutional provision of separation of powers.
This morning, charges will be laid against the MEC. In addition, I will be writing to the Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to bring this to his attention. He needs to be aware that there clearly is a problem in the province if it would illicit such unwarranted behavior from the MEC.
Anyone who responds to calls for accountability in such an abhorrent manner clearly is hiding the true extent of the problem. Furthermore, the Leader of Government Business, Deputy President David Mabuza needs to sanction the MEC without any delay. We cannot be in the throes of a global pandemic and still deal with members of the executive who wholly misunderstand the constitution. I will be making this case to the Deputy President today.
The province has over 85 000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and close to 1000 fatalities. For the past 5 months, field hospitals such as the Gen Justice Ginzenga Mapanza field hospital visited yesterday, are still under construction. As the province has been dubbed as the next to have high numbers and fatalities, it is important to ensure that the health system is ready.
It has emerged on social media that a patient in a Pietermaritzburg Hospital died under appalling conditions. It is unclear why this patient was seemingly left in an outside area. These are exactly the issues that we need to get to the bottom of.
Members of the legislature have long raised the alarm about the state of healthcare in the province but are blocked from exposing the rot.
The MEC is not above the Constitution. The DA will conduct these oversight inspections in many of the hotspot areas. It is our constitutional obligation to ensure that South Africans are being given an adequate health service.
We will not be deterred by any attempt to shield ineptitude and subpar healthcare.