Despite a health crisis in Free State caused by a funding shortage, the provincial health department has granted 160 health workers who are members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union paid leave for six months to do election campaigning for the ANC.
Free State head of the health department Pax Ramela approved the leave after it was requested by Nehawu last month.
Ramela, however, denies that the 160 shop stewards were released to do election work for the ANC. He said they were doing "union work", but has failed to explain the nature of the "work".
However, a Nehawu memorandum addressed to MEC for health Sakhiwo Belot asking for leave for its members is explicit, and states: "Cosatu and its affiliates, Nehawu included, took a decision to actively and practically participate in the 2009 election campaigns for a decisive victory of our glorious movement, the African National Congress.
"To achieve this aim, Nehawu in particular is tasked to facilitate and secure political release of shop stewards to be deployed in various strategic workplaces and towns for the same purpose. It is on this basis that Nehawu requests your office to facilitate the release of attached comrades to perform the above-mentioned task until election day."
Attached to the memo, which is in Health-e's possession, are names of 160 employees from health facilities across the province - from the Motheo district to Clocolan.
Ramela approved Nehawu's request on February 16 "on condition that the release is for a period of six months while we evaluate the impact on service delivery; that at any given point and time 50 percent of shop stewards are available to provide contractual obligations for the institutions; and that activities must as far as possible be within the institutions".
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance in the province has condemned the release of the 160 personnel and said it would be seeking legal advice on the matter. - Health e-news