Parliament politicising NHI public hearings – Siviwe Gwarube

DA MP says leaflet advocated for passing of the bill, rather than just explaining its provisions

Parliament misleads the public by politicising NHI public hearings

28 October 2019

This weekend, Parliament’s portfolio committee on health attended public hearings in Mpumalanga to hear the views of ordinary citizens on the National Health Insurance Bill (NHI Bill). This is a process critical to the work of law-making.

However, these hearings were deeply politicised and sought to mislead the public about the legislation in order to sway their inputs. Parliament produced a leaflet that was not signed off by the portfolio committee, which sought to educate people about the Bill but instead advocated for the passing of the Bill. This is a complete betrayal to the people of South Africa and undermined the work that Parliament is meant to do.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be writing to the House Chairperson, Cedric Frolick, to demand that all leaflets that are distributed by Parliament are signed off by all parties and that the ANC is banned from attempting to bulldoze this process.

In the legislation making process, the Minister of Health, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, hands over the Bill to Parliament to deliberate on and take it to the people. These hearings are meant to be apolitical and should be an endevour to hear the views of the people we are meant to serve. Instead, the ANC highjacked this process. A leaflet with the parliamentary logo and the details of the parliamentary staff was distributed encouraging people to support this Bill in the province. This, notwithstanding the extensive bussing operation by the ANC to pack the hearings with its supporters who were clearly scripted and dominated the meetings.

While nothing prevents political parties from mobilising its members to attend public hearings and table their views.

To mislead the public by distributing leaflets which make the case for supporting the Bill and not representing it in an objective manner is an effort to highjack the process and mislead people who rely on Parliament to provide an unbiased explanation of NHI.

So desperate is the ANC that they would stoop to low levels of lying to people who are trusting Parliament to provide objective facts.

The ANC has always shown disdain for Parliament and its processes that they have resorted to lying to people about what the Bill seeks to do. The majority of people who presented at these hearings were asking the relevant questions about how this Bill will materially change their lives. It is clear that the workshops that have been conducted have been inadequate based on the confusion which was evident. The majority of citizens also raised concerns about the quality of the services they currently receive - something which the Bill will not resolve. However, they were misled.

Parliament has repeatedly been found wanting on conducting its oversight role on many issues and this NHI process is now adding to the list. By conducting itself this way, the portfolio committee chairperson, Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo, is opening this process to a legal challenge in the long run. This is something that the DA will not hesitate to pursue.

The people of South Africa have been let down by a government that has delivered an inadequate health system for 25 years. The NHI Bill as it stands will not resolve issues of quality and access. It is merely a flawed financing system that will kill the private health care, placing more people on an already overburdened public health system. This is not what the people of this country need. They require a fiscally responsible government that will deliver quality healthcare with the requisite checks and balances to ensure that public money is not stolen by the politically connected.

The DA will be present at each and every hearing to ensure that the views of every South African are well represented. We will not let the ANC hijack this process.

The DA unequivocally supports Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and believes that it is possible in South Africa. However, UHC cannot be through the vehicle of the NHI legislation. That is why we have tabled an alternative to NHI, the Sizani Universal Health Coverage Plan. We will pursue every parliamentary angle available to ensure that we achieve quality healthcare for all.

Issued by Siviwe Gwarube, DA Shadow Minister of Health, 28 October 2019