Operation Dudula members burning EFF flags outside Kalafong Hospital on Thursday.
- Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the government was obliged by the Constitution and the law to ensure the population had access to healthcare services and no one should be refused emergency medical treatment.
- On Thursday, a protest outside Kalafong Hospital turned violent when Operation Dudula and EFF members clashed.
- Dudula members had arrived at the hospital to protest undocumented foreign nationals allegedly accessing healthcare there.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla on Thursday said the Constitution was “very clear” regarding the rights of people who lived in the country to be assisted with the best possible healthcare.
“As the government of the Republic of South Africa, we are obliged by the Constitution and the law to make sure our population has access to healthcare services and that no one may be refused emergency medical treatment.
“The right to health in our Constitution is not qualified and must be understood as such.
“The National Health Act goes on to provide the framework through which a national health service will be put in place, which will ‘provide in an equitable manner the population of the Republic with the best possible health services that available resources can afford’,” Phaahla said.
He was addressing the media following a site visit at the Kalafong Hospital in Atteridgeville to assess the impact of the current sporadic protests on access to health services.
READ | EFF members sjambokked, party’s flags burnt as violence breaks outside Kalafong Hospital
Over the past two days, EFF and Operation Dudula members exchanged blows outside the hospital.
On Wednesday, EFF members forcefully removed Dudula members after allegedly turning away illegal foreign nationals at the hospital.
On Thursday, a group of Dudula supporters violently removed EFF supporters from outside the hospital.
Police used stun grenades to disperse them.
EFF Gauteng spokesperson Philip Makwala accused police of “sleeping in the same bed” as Dudula members.
“They [the government] have obtained a court interdict from the High Court, but they are still questioning whether it is legitimate or legal.
“The SA Police [Service] is promoting black-on-black violence, so we need to fight with these people because they are just here to watch us [and] not bringing order or dispersing the group of protesters as instructed by the court interdict.”
Makwala denied the EFF had used violence to remove Dudula members from the hospital.
“Who is fighting? I have not seen that fight. We are not fighting here; we are here to ensure that our people access Kalafong [Hospital] peacefully without interruption.
We feel that the health minister [Joe Phaahla] has failed the people, particularly immigrants who are economic immigrants and asylum seekers who are in SA.
“The minister is here because he is a populist minister, a minister of headlines because the EFF came to confront a certain group of people yesterday [Wednesday].”
The provincial health department obtained a court interdict from the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on 26 August.
The order instructed Dudula members to stop threatening or denying patients and employees of Kalafong access to the hospital.
A copy of the order was posted on notice boards outside the hospital.
Phaahla said they visited several areas of the hospital on Thursday, adding staff feared for their lives following the protests.
READ | Health minister to visit Kalafong hospital amid anti-foreigner protests
“It is really unwarranted because our Constitution is very clear in terms of the rights of South Africans and everybody in the country to be assisted when they need healthcare.”
According to him, there was a massive demand from neighbouring countries for health services in South Africa.
“Even citizens of other countries as far as India are admitted here [Kalafong], notwithstanding the challenges that our health facilities have, but they are still able to provide quality health service.
“We do accept the fact that our services are under pressure and if this demand from across our neighbours keeps on increasing, you will reach a stage where it is not sustainable.
“We believe it is not up to ordinary citizens of the country to think they can help the state. That is not the correct approach.”
Phaahla conceded they needed to work closer with embassies to address specific issues faced by hospital staff.
“Sometimes they have to deal with patients who can’t speak any of the local languages, and sometimes they need urgent [medical] attention. These are matters which we are aware of.”