Members of Nehawu protest outside Unisa's Sunnyside Campus. CREDIT: Goitsemang Thabye
Members of Nehawu protest outside Unisa's Sunnyside Campus. CREDIT: Goitsemang Thabye

You can’t blame Nehawu members them for losing patience during Covid-19 pandemic

Time of article published Aug 22, 2020

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South Africa’s lockdown, imposed from March 27, was intended to “flatten the curve” of the COVID 19 infection rate and allow government time to prepare our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

We were so successful, that last Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa relaxed restrictions to such an extent that the economy is now almost entirely open, on the proviso that we dare not lessen our vigilance because of the threat of subsequent waves of infection.

How we manage this depends on our continued personal behaviour and – critically – the government’s ability to track and trace new infection clusters as they emerge.

Yesterday though the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) staged a snap go-slow at the National Health Laboratory Service to highlight the continued staff shortages at this vital institution – and that their members (and others) are working with insufficient personal protective equipment.

They say they did so because government has refused to attend to this – and to implement a salary agreement agreed last year. If government refuses to meet with union leaders, Nehawu are threatening to go on a full strike rendering tracking and tracing impossible – and seriously impact health care in clinics and state hospitals.

Nehawu members have been in the forefront of the fight against COVID 19, literally putting their lives on the line and working long hours. They should be getting bonuses just for that. Instead they’re being forced to fight to right a wrong against them, when the government appears unable to act resolutely against those accused of looting the hundreds of millions of Rands set aside by government to source vital PPE.

You can’t blame them for losing patience.

We need leadership. Tough and resolute as befits the crisis that faces us. Give Nehawu what they want – and prosecute the profiteers. The problem is that leadership has been in as short supply as the PPE our health workers so desperately need.

The Saturday Star

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