OPINION

Covid-19 crisis highlights need for NHI - SACP

Party says neoliberalism to blame for the poor state of public healthcare in SA

SACP welcomes strengthening of measures to bring COVID-19 under control, calls for co-operation and unity to face off multiple capitalist system crises 

SACP end-of-year statement, Tuesday 29 December 2020

The South African Communist Party takes this opportunity to wish every person and family in South Africa a safe festive season and a better new year. No social change happens on its own, however. Human beings make their own history, although they do not make it under self-selected circumstances but under circumstances existing already and shaped by other developments. To achieve a safe festive season and a better new year, we should all make history differently—by behaving differently.

The pandemic crisis

The SACP calls upon everyone in South Africa to take responsibility and follow the COVID-19 preventative measures and recommended hygiene protocols. These include wearing a mask, physical distancing, but with social solidarity, and regularly washing hands with soap for 20 seconds or sanitising with a recommended sanitiser.

The SACP supports the strengthening of the COVID-19 regulations announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, 28 December 2020. Indeed, if we do not do things differently, this will be the last year for some—because of the rising COVID-19 spread and the deaths that the deadly virus causes. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the devastation that the crisis caused, dominated the year 2020 globally and in South Africa.

Over 80.9 million people contracted the deadly virus globally since the first case was detected a year ago, in December 2019. South Africa accounts for a significant number of the global COVID-19 infections. Our country has surpassed one million COVID-19 infections by Monday and is the epicentre of the pandemic in Africa. Globally, approximately 1.8 million people died since the first COVID-19 case was detected. In South Africa, approximately 27 thousand people died since the first COVID-19 case was detected in the country.

The SACP expresses its message of heartfelt condolences to the families of our frontline workers in the battle against COVID-19 in the healthcare sector and every family that lost their loved ones.

Our highest gratitude and appreciation go to the frontline workers for their dedicated service to the people working under difficult circumstances. “The SACP is grateful for your outstanding contribution to protect the supreme right to life”, said the SACP General Secretary Dr Blade Nzimande.    

For us to succeed, we need to clamp down on and refrain from irresponsible behaviour, recklessness, uncaring conduct, and wage a relentless struggle against ignorance and conspiracy theories. Thus, the SACP unequivocally reiterates its strong condemnation of the spread, wittingly or unwittingly, of unscientific utterances and conspiracy theories against scientific COVID-19 vaccine development.

The SACP reiterates its call to the World Health Organisation to make the COVID-19 vaccine a universally accessible public good in all countries.

Narrow nationalism including vaccine nationalism and a neglect of other parts of the world is a dangerous policy of regression and a refusal to learn. In contradiction, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that any neglect of one part of the world is tantamount to exposing the entire world to the risk of global pandemics.

In our country, the duty to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccine is universally accessible should not fall on the shoulders of the state only. Medical aid schemes’ resources must also play their part and contribute to ensuring that the COVID-19 vaccine is universally accessible. The SACP stresses the importance of moving with a sense of urgency to ensure universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine while maintaining caution intending to make things happen efficiently and effectively in defence of the right to life.   

The pandemic crisis has underlined the importance of ensuring universal access to quality healthcare for all. Thus, the SACP reiterates its stance for immediate implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) principles to build access to quality healthcare for all in our country without regard to one’s class location and position or social standing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed neoliberalism and its agenda of austerity, including in South Africa, of being incapable of responding to such pandemics. The under resourcing, in many respects the systematic weakening and ultimate destruction of public healthcare systems in favour of capitalist wealth accumulation has proven to be a toxic policy regime to the health and well-being of society.

Neoliberalism is responsible for understaffing, shortage of nurses, medical doctors, specialist medical practitioners, consequently overloading of healthcare workers, and shortage of equipment, and at times medicine, in the public healthcare sector, to name but a few consequences. Meanwhile, the profit driven healthcare sector rejects the workers and poor who do not have money to pay. The NHI must do away with the two-tier healthcare system, equalise access to quality healthcare and ensure that it is universal.

The COVID-19 pandemic is however one of the multiple crises of the prevailing global capitalist system.

Interrelated crises of capitalism

The other crises include the capitalist economic crisis. South Africa experienced high levels of inequality, unemployment, and poverty, long before the emergence of COVID-19. This has been the case in many countries as well.

Inequality, unemployment, and poverty are a global phenomenon—a direct result of the endemic crisis of capitalism.

The colonial era engineered inequality between the Global North and the Global South has entrenched. The capitalist system’s imperialist regime is reproducing global inequality.

The crisis of social reproduction—the big problem affecting many households struggling to make ends meet, to support life itself, has worsened because of the capitalist economic crisis, its high levels of inequality, unemployment, and poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic.  

As if that were not enough, the catastrophic crisis of climate change is worsening as well, following the recent relaxation of lockdowns globally without changes to the old patterns of capitalist production and consumption. 

Unity is the basic condition to overcome the multiple capitalist crises

We need to forge unity to overcome the multiple crises of capitalism and their underlying cause, the capitalist system itself. This is one reason the SACP places a premium in its 2021 programme of action on its structures to intensify work to build inviolable ties with the masses on the ground, including in ensuring that we bring COVID-19 under control as an immediate task.

The task to build inviolable ties with the masses on the ground and embarking on safe efforts to bring COVID-19 under control goes hand in hand with the task to forge a popular Left front involving working-class and other progressive formations and strata under the theme “Put people before profits”.

A widest possible patriotic front also remains necessary to defend and deepen our democracy towards the goals of the Freedom Charter.

Socialism is the future—Build it now.

Issued by the SACP, 29 December 2020