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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

WATCH: ‘NHI bill driving fear into hearts of some white people’ – Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa hit out at 'well-to-do, rich people' for criticising his decision to sign the NHI bill into law

With just hours left before President Cyril Ramaphosa signs the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) bill into law, the president has hit back at “well-to-do, rich people” for criticising his decision.

Ramaphosa finally “found his pen” and will on Wednesday publicly sign into law the NHI bill, which directs the transformation of South Africa’s health care system to achieve universal coverage for health services.

The signing ceremony will take place at the Union Buildings, Pretoria, at 2pm.

Watch President Cyril Ramaphosa speaking about the NHI bill he will be signing into law

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Ramaphosa’s decision has been met with disappointment, concern and dismay, with an avalanche of separate legal challenges expected to follow the signing.

Rich people

However, the president was undeterred when asked about his decision to sign the bill into law at an African National Congress (ANC) Progressive Business Forum luncheon in Centurion, South of Pretoria, on Tuesday.

Defending his decision, Ramaphosa told guests the NHI would ensure that every citizen, including the poor, had access to quality healthcare.

“The opposition on NHI is coming from well-to-do, rich people…This is what often happens. The haves don’t want the have-nots to benefit from what they have been having.”

ALSO READ: Disappointment, concern and court after Ramaphosa decides to sign NHI Bill

Fear into hearts of white people

Ramaphosa said he knew the NHI “was driving fear into the hearts of many, including “some white people” like when all South Africans got a vote after democracy and felt that they would lose their privileges.

“The biggest fear in the hearts of white people in this country. They were terrified, they were so afraid when they thought when everybody gets a vote and the privilges that they always had are now going to dissappear.

“Let me tell you something, my good friends, we are not a reckless government. We are a government that is focused on building a nation, reconciliation and making sure that there is equality fully in our country.

Ramaphosa added that many laws are often challenged, but duly elected people have voted for that piece of legislation, and that is the “democratically elected representatives that we all have”.

“So, in their wisdom, they have voted for that piece of legislation and whoever is unhappy has a number of avenues,” he said when asked whether the bill would withstand legal scrutiny and backlash.

Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen said on Tuesday that the party would take the legislation to court as soon as it is signed, with the DA’s legal team having been briefed “months ago”.

Civil rights organisation AfriForum’s campaign officer Louis Boshoff has also strongly condemned the Ramaphosa’s decision to push through the NHI Bill.

AfriForum is convinced the Bill is unconstitutional and unenforceable. The organisation indicated that it is ready to oppose the implementation of the NHI Bill in the highest court, and said it would sign a resolution on the same day that the Bill was signed to validate that sentiment.

The South African Health Professionals Collaboration (SAHPC) is also preparing a legal challenge, saying addition to its many submissions and engagement in the NHI parliamentary process, it made a submission to Ramaphosa in December, urging him to refer the NHI Bill back to Parliament because it is unconstitutional and not in the best interest of patients and citizens.

Cas Coovadia, CEO of Business Unity South Africa (Busa) also said it was deeply concerned that Ramaphosa will sign the NHI Bill into law, given its many substantive and procedural constitutional flaws.

ALSO READ: NHI bill misses opportunity to address fundamental and critical issues – Hospital Association