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By William Saunderson-Meyer


Cyril’s lip-service to business regarding NHI

The NHI will be more corrupt, more mismanaged and more dogmatically implemented than anything we have yet seen.

President Cyril Ramaphosa must be able to marshal enormous reserves of personal charm.

How else to explain the ease with which he has for years managed to dazzle and bamboozle business? This column has, often enough, argued that business needs to be less trusting and more transactional.

They should use the same hardnosed negotiating style with government that they would employ in any commercial deal.

ALSO READ: ‘Don’t panic – Cyril won’t just sign the NHI Bill’

Instead, they take at face value the nod-anda-wink assurances that CR gives them. The most recent dupes are some of the big medical schemes.

They muted their criticisms of the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) in the mistaken belief that, in exchange, the government would produce an NHI Bill that, behind all the socialist rhetoric, would allow the private health sector a role.

Instead, the legislation that was bundled through the National Assembly and now sits before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) is as draconian and destructive as it ever was.

ALSO READ: NCOP postpones NHI Bill decision to next week

The medical schemes are now belatedly squealing and are trying to shape public opinion through organised business forums.

Discovery founder and CEO Adrian Gore is begging the government to abandon its “goit-alone” stance and not create an “inflexible” legislative framework.

“Create some wriggle room,” urges Gore. On Tuesday, at the very last moment, the NCOP postponed discussion on the Bill for a week.

ALSO READ: Private: Debate intensifies as 25,000 healthcare practitioners challenge NHI Bill

This raised hopes that some kind of accommodation would be reached between the private sector and the government.

The Presidency spokesperson acknowledged that big business had raised concerns “directly” with the president and hinted that the door was not closed.

If such an accommodation were to occur, it would be a significant reversal in the arrogant attitude of the government to advice and criticism, as encapsulated by the department of health’s deputy director-general Nicholas Crisp at a recent cardiology congress.

When the specialists dared question the government’s ability to run an efficient NHI, Crisp didn’t bother to hide his disdain. “This distrust [of the government],” he snapped, “must stop.”

ALSO READ: NCOP committee passed NHI Bill ‘without enough consultation and review’

More likely than a real compromise is that Ramaphosa will slap some corporate backs, press some flesh, and make some soothingly amiable noises.

And as has previously happened with a host of issues – expropriation without compensation, the collapse of passenger rail, the airways and the Post Office – the ruling party’s ideologues will nevertheless prevail.

The government, bound as it is in the blood pact that is the tripartite alliance, cannot countenance anything that smacks remotely of a betrayal of the national democratic revolution.

Any form of public-private partnership on terms that would be remotely attractive to investors remains unthinkable to the ideologues who still dominate the ANC.

ALSO READ: Increasing taxes to fund NHI will ‘destroy economy’ – expert

That the NHI Bill has, until now, rattled through the legislative process with a blithe indifference to cautionary voices, should be warning enough to business of Ramaphosa’s bad faith.

In 2018, Deputy President David Mabuza reassured South Africans that the NHI would not “negate the existence of private health schemes for those who desire [them]”.

Yet here we are. The only people not taken in by the ANC’s weaselly words are the medical professionals. There is a terrifying outflow of expertise taking place.

The NHI is shaping to be the worst disaster ever of ANC rule. It will be more corrupt, more mismanaged and more dogmatically implemented than anything we have yet seen.

But, as Cyril and Nicholas say, just trust them and everything will turn out fine.

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