SONA 2020: Fixing some of the issues facing SA isn't complicated, says Imtiaz Sooliman

By Lou-Anne Daniels Time of article published Feb 12, 2020

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Cape Town - From the crippling drought affecting parts of South Africa to the dismal unemployment statistics, the country is facing numerous challenges - but there are simple ways to fix it, so says Gift of the Givers founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman.

In an interview with IOL, Sooliman shared some of the topics he would like President Cyril Ramaphosa to touch on in his State of the Nation Address on Thursday.

Fixing the job crisis is not complicated, Sooliman asserts. 

"You're concentrating on job creation but you are losing thousands of jobs to something that can be fixed, and it's not complicated. The most labour intensive job in South Africa is agriculture, and we're not focusing on it. That makes no sense to me."

Turning to education Sooliman, whose organisation is involved in projects to provide schools which don't have toilets with proper facilities, said:  "School sanitation is important. It's cheap, it's simple (and) it's life saving. More important, it's dignity. It affects health, education and dignity."

The current drought crippling parts of South Africa, including the Eastern Cape and Free State, is another urgent matter on his to-do list for government. The two elements vital to this are boreholes and fodder, he said.

"You give fodder to all the (affected) farms to save the sheep, and you put boreholes in the right places (to provide) water for animals and water for people to take the pressure off. You can't wait for expensive desalination projects that don't work. They are too expensive and the end product is very harmful to the environment."

The awarding of contracts to capable service providers was also vital, said Sooliman. 

"You need the right people to do the job. Contracts have been given and people have been asked to drill, but nobody has been asked to find water. So they get paid to drill 10 000 metres but not one drop of water comes from the ground," he said.

Instead of waiting for the introduction of the National Health Insurance, the health department should be implementing a number of simple fixes to help fix the ailing state healthcare system, said Sooliman.

Among his recommendations are simple renovations to public hospitals and ensuring that healthcare facilities are properly staffed.

"Psychologically, a nice coat of paint makes people feel better. Staff it properly. Make sure you get the best people for the job, regardless of a quota system," he said.

In order to speed up service delivery and ensure that patient's ailments are not aggravated by the long wait for surgery, state hospitals also need to expand their operating hours, Dr Sooliman told IOL.

"We need to open (state) hospitals Monday to Sunday now. Even for elective surgery, do it on Saturday or Sunday."

Forming partnerships with the private sector can help ensure that poor citizens are given world class medical treatment while costs are kept to a minimum, said Sooliman.


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