Avatar photo

By Eric Naki

Political Editor

Mantashe, Nxesi cop some flak for seeking private care

'Mantashe and Nxesi must lead by example. If they made these public hospitals for the people, they must use them as well,' Kalipa says.

The admissions of two cabinet ministers – Gwede Mantashe of mineral resources and energy and his employment and labour counterpart, Thulas Nxesi – in private hospitals has raised concerns about their lack of government confidence in the public health system. Nxesi’s hospitalisation was announced by Minister in the Presidency Jacob Mthembu yesterday.

It is understood Mantashe’s wife, Nolwandle, who also tested positive for the virus like her husband, got concerned and called for him to be taken to hospital when his health deteriorated. While it could not be ascertained how many other Cabinet members have existing co-morbidities, Mantashe and Nxesi were known diabetics. But the fact that they chose private hospitals over public facilities raised concerns.

Editor’s note: Since the publication of this article, both ministers have insisted that they are being treated at public healthcare facilities. Read more here.

Former trade unionist and parliamentarian, Ndzipo Kalipa, said while he sympathised with Nxesi and Mantashe, the ministers had set a bad example by going to private hospitals. Mantashe is the former chair of the South African Communist Party while Nxesi is the current chair of the party and their use of private hospitals went against the principle of communism where leaders must live humbly like their proletariat supporters.

“It shows that they have no confidence in the public health system. This does not set a good example. We’ve got a crisis in African countries. Those who fought for liberation don’t go to public hospitals, but these two want elitist hospitalists,” said Kalipa.

He said it was bad of former president Jacob Zuma to seek medical help in Russia and Cuba and for Deputy President David Mabuza to seek medical help in Russia. He also pointed at former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who died in a Singaporean hospital, as another example of African leaders who lived large after liberation.

Also read: Minister Thulas Nxesi admitted to hospital over Covid-19

Kalipa praised former health minister Aaron Motsoaledi and his late predecessor Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for having used public hospitals for their medical needs.

“Mantashe and Nxesi must lead by example. If they made these public hospitals for the people, they must use them as well,” Kalipa said.

“There must be no different standards, medicines must be the same for all. When we say we want the same healthcare system for all, it means these ministers must go to public hospitals, that must not be just slogan.”

This was echoed by Congress of the People spokesperson Dennis Bloem, who said: “We expect ministers to set an example by not going to private hospitals where things are rosy, but to stay at public hospitals so as to feel the pain felt by our poor people so that they can correct the wrongs going on there. If they go to private hospitals it means these problems in government facilities will never end.”

Political analyst Professor Dirk Kotze from Unisa said it could demoralise the entire system if many ministers went sick because of Covid-19, especially on policy decision-making.

“When the minister is not around, that dampens the spirits with the organisation,” Kotze said.

The majority of the 30 cabinet ministers excluding deputies, are over 60 years old and that could put them at higher risk should they contract the virus. Recently Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula, 64, and her husband, Charles Nqakula, 78, who is security advisor to President Cyril Ramaphosa, recovered from Covid-19.

The oldest in Ramaphosa’s cabinet is Local Government and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, 71, while Ramaphosa himself is 68 and his deputy Mabuza is 60. The youngest is Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola at 36, followed by Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, 42, Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams , 42, Small Business Development Minister Khumbuzo Ntshavheni, 43, and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula of Transport, 49.

Other below the age of 60 are Thoko Didiza, 55, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, 56, Nathi Mthethwa, 53, Ayanda Dlodlo, 57, and Ebrahim Patel, 58.

Kotze said the day-to-day running of government wouldn’t suffer as it was the duty of the directors general and senior management run a department.

Others who suffered from the virus were Premiers Alan Winde, 55 of the Western Cape, Job Mokgoro, 72, of North West, David Makhura, 52, of Gauteng and Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Service, Inkosi Phathekile Holomisa, 61, and Deputy Minister of Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.

– ericn@citizen.co.za

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

Read more on these topics

Gwede Mantashe Thulas Nxesi