– 16 strong Free State Health Crisis Coalition launches with the mandate of campaigning to bring an end to the health crisis in the province’s public healthcare system.
THURSDAY 12th MAY, BLOEMFONTEIN: 500 people marched today to the SAPS and the Free State Prosecuting Authority to demand the SAPS must urgently conclude its investigation into corruption by Health MEC Benny Malakoane and that the prosecuting authority swiftly reviews the evidence and commences to prosecute Malakoane.
On 1 September 2014, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) laid charges of corruption against MEC Malakoane and other senior officials of the Free State Health Department. We charged that in June of 2014, MEC Malakoane and other department officials ordered an ICU bed in Dihlabeng Hospital be made available to a patient despite that the responsible doctors at the hospital found the patient did not qualify for the bed. When the doctors explained to MEC Malakoane that the patient did not qualify for an ICU bed, the MEC replied he had promised the patient’s family the patient would be given the bed. The MEC then forced the patient to be admitted. As a result, an elderly woman with good chances of recovery was forced out of the ICU. She later died.
SAPS has allowed over 20 months to pass since they received the charge. The investigating officer has advised us the investigation remains incomplete. A key piece of the investigation, the subpoena of Minister Zwane, continues to be delayed. Nonetheless, we are aware the evidence already available to the police is overwhelming. There is no principled reason to delay the finalisation of the investigation and prosecution of MEC Malakoane.
“Why are they so quick to prosecute community healthcare workers, but so slow to prosecute MEC Malakoane?” asked TAC General Secretary Anele Yawa. “We are deeply suspicious of the ongoing delays in our case against MEC Malakoane. The police must act without fear or favour and in the interests of justice. We are here today to demand that the police and the prosecuting authority fulfil their duties.”
Additionally, MEC Malakoane is currently facing criminal charges in another unrelated active prosecution that has faced extensive delays. On 16 May 2016, the National Prosecuting Authority is scheduled to begin its trial in State v Malakoane and 6 others. The prosecution alleges that Malakoane used his position as Municipal Manager of the Matjhabeng Local Municipality in 2007 and 2008 to conduct extensive fraud and corruption. Malakoane has a long history of enriching himself by pilfering resources meant to help the poor.
Free State Health Crisis Coalition founded
The march was the first public action of the newly established Free State Health Crisis Coalition. Civil society organisations founded the coalition during the Free State People’s Health Assembly held in Batho location on Wednesday this week.
“We established the coalition to mobilise a coordinated campaign around the right to health in the Free State,” said Dumezwe Majola from Petsana Resident’s Association. “We aim to strengthen healthcare workers and community organisations acting in the interest of health and other Constitutional rights. We want to encourage healthcare workers to exercise their right to speak out and defend healthcare workers from victimisation when they do so.”
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1. You can find TAC’s statement to SAPS from September 2014 here: tac.org.za/news/tac-charges-mec-benny-malakoane-corruption-1
2. The report of the People’s Commission of Inquiry last year confirmed the continuing crisis in the Free State healthcare system under MEC Malakoane’s watch. You can access the full report here: tac.org.za/news/evidence-submitted-peoples-commission-inquiry
3. The memorandums delivered to SAPS and the Free State Prosecutors Office can be found here: tac.org.za/files/SAPS-%26-NPA-MARCH-MEMORANDUM.pdf
4. The Free State Health Crisis Coalition so far includes: Childhood Cancer Foundation South Africa (CHOC), Freedom of Expression Network, Hospersa, Khothalang Mental Disability, MACUA, Free State Community Healthcare Workers Taskteam, NUMSA, People’s Health Movement, Petsana Resident’s Association, Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP), Right2Know, SECTION27, Stars Youth Club, Stop Stockouts Project, Treatment Action Campaign, and the United Front.