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By Kyle Zeeman

Deputy Digital Editor


A VIEW OF THE WEEK: Violence is a wound the NHI cannot fix

Will we accept the new trauma of a broken NHI as much as we accept violence?


The festive season is a time to throw out your diet and mind your table manners. It can also be a time to meet with friends and learn more about them.

Two Christmas parties and a birthday dinner this week led to well over a dozen conversations, only some properly audible in loud restaurants, and an interesting takeaway.

More than a few people peppered their stories with tales of violence, whether it was a person being stabbed and calls for help waking them up or the trauma of a colleague collapsing at work. These were not the main topic or tale, just one of many details to add context.

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It showed just how engrained violence has become in our lives, a constant feature so prevalent it has desensitized us.

It reminded me of a speech I heard from an American leader to a graduating class on believing in a brighter tomorrow. He used the example of “keeping the faith” despite crippling and inevitable healthcare debt.

His speech, like the passing comments of violence at the dinner table, had resigned the chaos of inefficient healthcare to the everyday struggle of life in America.

With the passing of the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) bill by the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday, will we soon face a similar reality?

Will we be living with the trauma of a broken NHI as much as we live with violence?

As the government “becomes the nation’s medical aid”, it will need to run an effective system that can provide healthcare to all citizens when they need it. Long queues and medicine shortages that are the everyday battles at government clinics are just one evidence that those in power will have an Everest-like mountain to climb to achieve this.

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Reports of malpractice, neglect and lack of basic equipment plague state hospitals, while courts and NGOs have to intervene to keep the lights on and water running.

A government that has failed and abandoned a sick nation cannot be entrusted with its citizens’ health.

The magic wand that will give universal healthcare has not been useful in giving us electricity or rail services. It has not fixed Eskom and Transnet, among others, and has led to the South African Post Office’s business rescue practitioners recently announcing the need to shed about 6,000 jobs to “right size” the entity.

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No wonder ANC stalwart Mavuso Msimang was so critical of a country under ANC rule. In his letter to the party, shared this week, he lamented the endemic corruption “we once decried is now part of our movement’s DNA”.

He pointed out that a party that claimed to create a better life for all had left millions living in shacks or homeless.

“They are human beings who have been forced to sacrifice their dignity in part because of my party’s successive failures,” he wrote.

Let’s hope the NHI can avoid being added to the failures stripping our dignity.

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