We've got news for you.

Register on SowetanLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Limpopo health MEC's tongue lashing against 'illegal' patient divides opinion

Zoe Mahopo Journalist
Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba.
Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba.
Image: Alaister Russell

Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba’s remarks to a Zimbabwean patient who had just been operated on at a hospital in Bela-Bela has divided opinion over the cost of illegal immigration to SA.

While some South Africans applauded Ramathuba's strong views against foreigners crossing borders to seek medical attention in SA, others have accused the MEC of being xenophobic.

The video that went viral across social media platforms from Tuesday evening shows Ramathuba speaking to a female patient after asking her what language she spoke.

When the woman tells Ramathuba that she is Shona speaking, the MEC asks her why she is not seeking medical treatment from her home country, Zimbabwe.

“You speak Shona and then how do you find yourself in Bela-Bela when you are supposed to be with [Emmerson] Mnangagwa (Zimbabwean president) there? You know he doesn’t give me money to operate you guys?” Ramathuba says.

Ramathuba proceeds to tell the patient that she is operating on a thin budget to which the woman responds by expressing her gratitude for the help she is receiving.

Aowa, you can’t appreciate that,” Ramathuba responds as other staff members standing around the hospital ward burst out in laughter. Ramathuba can be seen walking around the bed while moving closer to the woman.

“You are killing my health system. When you guys are sick you just cross the Limpopo River, there’s an MEC there who is running a charity department,” she says.

She goes on to tell the patient that national treasury only gives her department budget to cater for the 5.7-million Limpopo residents captured by census, adding that the funds are stretched because they also have to provide treatment to foreign nationals.  

Ramathuba also mentions that staff at George Masebe Hospital in Bakenberg, outside Mokopane, provides treatment to a lot of Mozambican nationals.

“You are even illegal. And you are abusing me, this is unfair. I can’t go Zimbabwe and get health treatment. Do you think they can allow to operate me?”

Ramathuba concludes by saying that she understands home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s sentiments about public services in the country being overburdened by foreign nationals, adding that people should stop accusing him of being xenophobic.

Her comments sparked a hot debate with some social media users, including activists and politicians, accusing Ramathuba of being irresponsible.

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi tweeted that Ramathuba had humiliated the patient.

“That MEC is humiliating a Zimbabwean. Next it will be unemployed South Africans told they can’t be operated because they don’t contribute anything to taxes that budgets are based on! But why humiliate a patient like that! Where are medical ethics? Confidentiality & Dignity?,” Ndlozi tweeted.

Mmusi Maimane also commented on the video saying Ramathuba directed her frustrations at the wrong person.

“We must be robust in our engagement with the dictator in Zimbabwe not a sick lady waiting for an operation,” Maimane tweeted.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.