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By Citizen Reporter


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

Cyril Ramaphosa still has “a constitutional imperative in processing that Bill before he signs it”, his spokesperson says.

As pressure mounts on President Cyril Ramaphosa from business, health and unions about the National Health Insurance (NHI) plan, people shouldn’t panic.

That’s according to his spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, who yesterday said Ramaphosa still had “a constitutional imperative in processing that Bill before he signs it”.

ALSO READ: NCOP postpones NHI Bill decision to next week

Magwenya was speaking shortly before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) met to decide on the fate of the Bill, which subsequently deferred voting to 6 December.

Introduced to parliament on 8 August 2019, the NHI Bill (B11-2019) has already passed through it.

“Concerns have been expressed directly to the president with respect to certain parts of the Bill,” Magwenya said.

ALSO READ: NHI: what about medical schemes and medical insurance?

“One of the things that he will look at is, has there been sufficient consultation and, if so, have those consultations sufficiently addressed the issues of concern?”

Magwenya said it was within Ramaphosa’s “constitutional remit” to send a Bill back if he had any concerns about it.

Not the end yet

“The passing of the Bill does not necessarily mark the conclusion of the process and the president does not, each time he receives a Bill, just sign it,” he said.

Ramaphosa’s signature is the last step in the process. Many have been cynical about the Bill picking up speed, calling it electioneering.

As the ANC stares at a long road to elections next year, business is worried about the collapse of a healthcare system already in intensive care.

ALSO READ: Govt will ‘bulldoze’ NHI Bill through parliament, ‘brushing aside all concerns’

Business Unity South Africa and Business for South Africa said on Monday they had written to the presiding officers of the NCOP, as well as to the deputy president in his capacity as leader of government business in parliament.

They “registered their deep concern regarding the lack of due process in the NCOP select committee on health and social services on their adoption of the Bill without any amendments on 21 November”.

The organisations said “no consideration was given by the committee to the many constitutional issues, both procedural and substantive, in the Bill, which were raised by four provinces and a wide range of stakeholders”.

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

“This amounts to a serious procedural lapse and a violation and disregard of parliament’s own public participation model, fundamentally undermining the principles of participatory democracy on which our constitution is based,” they said.

Also on Monday, a newly formed national group of nine medical and allied healthcare practitioners’ associations, representing over 25 000 private and public sector healthcare workers, also commented.

No amendments ‘disappointing’

“The South African Health Professionals Collaboration (SAHPC) … is disappointed that the committee has not made any amendments to the NHI Bill”.

It agreed with business “the committee failed to adequately consult, or consider submissions made by numerous clinician bodies, whose primary objective is to safeguard the future of healthcare in the country”.

“The SAHPC does not believe this version of the Bill is in the best interest of patients. It will also have severe repercussions for the economy.”

ALSO READ: SA’s health needs a kiss of life

Yesterday, the Congress of South African Trade Unions urged parliament to conclude passage of the long-delayed Bill.

“The federation is deeply dismayed government wilted like a cheap suit under pressure from a little bit of lobbying by business to delay today’s scheduled passage of the [Bill].

“Pandering to the vested interests of private industry’s insatiable lust for profits at the expense of the health of millions of ordinary South Africans marks a dark day in our democracy,” the federation said.

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