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By Carien du Plessis
African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema has left Port Elizabeth with his tail between his legs after he was booted out of Dora Nginza Hospital, where he went to wish patients well.
The notoriously rundown and struggling hospital was Malema's last stop in the Friendly City after jetting into town yesterday morning for a day of campaigning.
He was supposed to address a meeting of the health workers' union Nehawu at the hospital, but was delayed, and the workers had left by the time he arrived.
Nehawu official Nomonde Mhlobiso-Poyo, a former nurse at the hospital, said she had suggested that he visit patients in the wards.
A noisy delegation of about 20 national and provincial Youth League leaders and Nehawu shop stewards, some in political T-shirts, then followed Malema into the hospital, where he shook hands with bedridden patients in two general wards.
One patient, Sindiswa Hala, at first looked puzzled but then warmed to Malema when he asked her whether she needed help to cast her ballot on Monday or Tuesday, the days set aside for special votes by those who are ill or infirm.
Then the visibly upset hospital superintendent, Aydin Vehbi, intercepted the group in one of the corridors and asked them to leave.
Mhlobiso-Poyo said Vehbi had told them that if he allowed the ANCYL to campaign in the hospital, he would have to give other parties the same right.
Malema denied he was booted out, saying Vehbi had welcomed the group. "But he said he was worried that the DA would also want to do the same thing, so we said we are not going to campaign. We were merely wishing people well."
Dora Nginza Hospital, where five goats were seen roaming the barren gardens surrounding the hospital yesterday, has made headlines several times over controversies such as drug-resistant TB patients escaping, severe understaffing and security concerns.
Apparently, none of the security guards at the hospital were informed about Malema's visit.
When asked about his whereabouts, one security guard, not knowing who Malema was, asked if he had come by ambulance.
The youth league delegation afterwards sped off for a gala dinner in East London in preparation for ANC leader Jacob Zuma's visit to the province this morning.
The DA's Ryan Coetzee yesterday slammed Malema as someone who doesn't care about any rule, law, regulation, or anything to do with order".
He said his party had never tried to campaign in hospitals and would not offer to assist the frail to cast their ballot.
Cope presidential candidate Mvume Dandala earlier this week complained that the ANC had offered to help a family member of his who was slightly disabled to cast her ballot, a tactic he described as foul play.
The Electoral Act says voters who need assistance casting their votes may be helped, but only by somebody "of their own choice".