Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi speaking in Parliament during the post SoNA debate at the National Assembly in Cape Town. 19/06/2014 Kopano Tlape GCIS

Babalo Ndenze

Political Bureau

ONE of the biggest challenges facing the country’s strike-plagued mining sector is the “unacceptably” high level of tuberculosis, says Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

He was speaking during yesterday’s State of the Nation address debate in the National Assembly, about health challenges facing the country and the mining sector in particular.

Mining and the economy had formed a central part of President Jacob Zuma’s address on Tuesday.

Motsoaledi said mining had been a backbone of the economy for centuries “and it will still be for many more decades to come”.

“Yet some of the major problems the sector has been experiencing have been persisting over a long time. One of them is the unacceptably high prevalence of TB in the mines. Mr President, we now know that TB is the biggest killer in the country because 80 percent of the people who are HIV positive are actually killed by TB.”

Motsoaledi said they had identified three populations vulnerable to TB, with the most vulnerable being the 150 000 inmates in the 242 correctional services facilities around the country.

“The second most vulnerable group are the 500 000 mine- workers who are sustaining our mining industry. Today, let me concentrate on the mines because 70 percent of Sona was about the economy – appropriately so. Mr President, here is the big challenge. There are 41 810 cases of active TB in South African mines every year,” said Motsoaledi.

The debate was not without the usual drama, with accusations of sabotage, stealing land, dogs and the use of token blacks faces dominating the second day of the debate on Zuma’s address.

The EFF was at the centre of most moments with EFF MP Andile Mngxitama accusing the Freedom Front Plus MP Corne Mulder of stealing land from blacks.

“This man is a thief. He represents people who stole our land. He is a land thief,” said Mngxitama.

Before him ANC chief whip Stone Sizani poked fun at the DA’s “open opportunity for all” vision calling it an open opportunity “for some”.

He also hit out at DA MP Mike Waters for posting a picture portraying ANC voters as dogs.

“The DA denigrates our people by calling them dogs. How dare you, Mr Waters?” said Sizani.

The ANC, unlike the DA, did not “parachute leaders for window-dressing and photo opportunities”, he said.

DA MP Patricia Kopane reminded the ANC of its loss of 15 seats.

“Mr President, you have lost 15 seats in this house.

“South Africans no longer have the faith in your ability to lead,” said Kopane.

Zuma will respond to the debate today.