Zuma year – An administrative mess
3 August 2022
Every year there are cries of distress from graduates in the medical professions field that are all versions of: “Help! I was not placed for my Zuma year.” The administrative mess accompanying the compulsory Zuma year (community service year) for health workers worsens every year. AfriForum Youth received a few complaints from students in this regard and therefore this year they are ready to litigate in instances where young people’s careers are hindered by government’s maladministration.
It is a far-reaching problem that has to be addressed urgently. The administrative mess does not only hinder young medical people’s careers and chances to earn an income, but it also worsens the shortage of health workers in South Africa. This year it was found that South Africa has less than one doctor per 1 000 patients (0.31 doctors per 1 citizen). It is concerning that in 2019 it was double the amount, when the statistics showed 0,79 doctors per 1 000 patients. In comparison, the United Kingdom has 3,03 doctors per 1 000 patients, while Brazil, also a developing country, has 2,32 patients per 1 000.
So, why the shortage? Firstly most people will give emigration as a reason and unfortunately they are not completely wrong. There is a list of solutions one can offer for this, like doing away with the planned National Health Insurance (NHI), forbidding racial quotas at the selection process and establishing more medical faculties in South Africa. With these suggestions I will be accused of daydreaming, but there is one suggestion that is not supposed to be unfeasible: placing newly qualified health workers for their Zuma year. Unfortunately, it appears that even this simple proposal is impossible for government’s Internship and Community Service Programme (ICSP).
For health workers to be fully qualified and allowed to practise in South Africa, they must serve a compulsory year of community service after the completion of their studies (and in some fields, like doctors, after the completion of an internship). The newly qualified persons must apply via the ICSP portal to be placed. Placements are supposed to happen promptly, so the health workers can report for duty in January.