Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist

Transparency on ‘jab racism’ incident would help restore faith in NW govt

It is alleged that three white officials told black people the site had run out of doses while mobilising white people to get vaccinated.

The North West government is seemingly dragging its feet and shows little or no sense of urgency in the case of three senior officials who allegedly denied Covid vaccination to black people in favour of white people.

This in a country with a dark past of racism and still bedevilled by explosive racial tensions and ravaged by the Covid pandemic, with authorities forced to ramp up vaccine awareness campaign to counter the impact of the scandal.

In August the province was rocked by allegations that three white senior officials at Tswaing sub-district told black people the vaccination site had run out of doses while mobilising white people to get vaccinated.

The incident allegedly happened in Delareyville in July and brought to the health department’s attention after a tip-off from staff and complaints from residents a month later.

The officials, including the sub-district manager, were promptly suspended and an internal investigation instituted but the department has chosen to keep the public in the dark on the findings of the probe, despite the sensitivity and massive public interest in the matter.

The explanation is that the contents and findings of the investigation have bearing on the disciplinary process and thus could not be made public until the process was completed.

ALSO READ: Vaccine racism scandal costing NW health department

But the department would also not say whether the disciplinary process had started or when it was likely to be completed, only that

“the three accused officials will go through a disciplinary hearing”.

The department has admitted the matter was of national interest and involves senior managers, therefore needed to be thorough.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union has also complained about being kept in the dark, with their requests for progress reports ignored.

This despite the union being a key interested party in the matter and have raised a very important argument, that if true, the officials’ alleged actions would amount to attempted murder, and even murder, if any of those affected contracted Covid and died.

The North West has hogged the headlines for racial incidents, tensions and attacks. In January 2019 the provincial department of education had to send in a task team to Hoërskool Stilfontein to investigate after pupils allege that in most cases when white pupils have failed, they were being progressed, but the same was not extended to their black counterparts.

These allegations came against the backdrop of Laërskool Schweizer-Reneke making headlines the previous week, after a picture showed black Grade R pupils separated from white pupils in the classroom.

In November 2020 the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and sentence of two Coligny farmers who were convicted of killing teenager Matlhomola Mosweu in a high-profile case known as the Sunflower murder case.

It is not clear why the department is keeping the public and journalists in the dark on the progress of the disciplinary process.

Especially in a country in which citizens have grown to distrust government processes.

Surely, it will not damage the case to reveal if the process has started or not, whether the officials have been formally charged and what exactly have they been charged with.