Politicians’ lies, part two

Published May 22, 2024


Douglas Gibson

In my past column, I discussed the lies politicians tell. I suggested that those who tell lies give all politicians a bad name. In light of subsequent developments, the subject is worth revisiting.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed with a flourish the new National Health Insurance Bill. Smiling officials and admirers surrounded him, clearly there to convey their joy at the new era in health care. The TV cameras recorded this great moment in our history. If there ever was an election “foefie”, (to use a good Afrikaans word for a trick), it was this, without a doubt aimed at influencing the voters to rush out and vote for the ANC.

Nobody bothered to explain that it will be at least 10 years, if ever before the scheme is implemented. Nobody explained that government finances have deteriorated so much over the past few years that our country cannot afford the luxury of spending an estimated R250 billion a year on the scheme. They all forgot to mention that the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana stated more than a year ago that the scheme was unaffordable, at least for the present.

Nobody said that every representative medical body has condemned the bill as it stands. Nobody told us the bill is unconstitutional and will, undoubtedly, be challenged in court for years. Nobody said that the thousands of representations by the public were ignored when our law demands public participation in law-making and at the least, consideration by Parliament of the views and submissions of interested parties.

Nobody explained that our public health system has deteriorated alarmingly over the past decade or two, with sub-standard health care being the norm in many state hospitals. Nobody explained that poor people in South Africa have full access to medical and hospital treatment, either free or heavily subsidised but because the government has proved incapable of running anything properly, they have to accept shockingly bad treatment in many instances.

At the same time, First World standards are maintained in private hospitals. Can you imagine the state running private hospitals better than the current owners? They are all now to be thrown into the same pot, financed by a Central Fund that seems designed to facilitate the looting that has become such a feature of ANC rule at every level.

Think of the Covid Fund scandal, so mismanaged that breathtaking levels of corruption were reached, without anyone going to jail for theft and fraud. Think also of the billions wasted in Gauteng hospitals because of “the connected” being awarded tenders at hugely inflated prices. No one has gone to jail for that, either.

There is a shortage of 200 000 beds in state hospitals. No one explained how they were to be financed and provided by the central government. There is a shortage of tens of thousands of nurses, (in a country with the highest unemployment rate in the world). No one explained the shortage or the steps planned to train the nurses, fill the posts and pay all the staff.

The president, a billionaire, thanks to shares handed out to him over the years because of his ANC connections, dared accuse the (white) rich of opposing the NHI because they do not want quality health care for everyone. That was a deliberate untruth. He played the race card shamelessly while well aware of the reasoned opposition to the bill. It is a trick to persuade gullible voters to support him. He ought to be ashamed of himself. He ought to be punished on May 29.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand