I have been in this House since 1994.
I have seen six different premiers, all from the same political party.
They all had some virtues, and also faults.
But this is the first debate in this House that calls for a premier to be removed from office.
This is because no previous premier presided over such a huge and preventable loss of human life.
There were various points in this sad saga that the Honourable Premier could have and should have intervened.
He could have listened to all the many warnings which were widely publicised in the media.
He could have listened when relatives of the Esidimeni patients protested three times outside the head office of the Gauteng Health Department.
He could have listened to what his Health MEC was saying in various statements that made it clear that the Esidimeni patients were being transferred to NGOs instead of pretending that he thought they were going to other state health facilities.
He could have listened in this House on 15 March last year when the former Health MEC said in an oral reply to me that preparations were being made with NGOs to receive Esidimeni patients.
His degree of claimed ignorance is in itself inexcusable.
But then, when the former Health MEC revealed in this House on 13 September last year that 36 patients in NGOs had died, did he snap into action to replace his health MEC and do all that he could to prevent more deaths?
The answer is NO.
He supported the referral to the Health Ombudsman, but he should have been shocked enough by the 36 deaths to demand the resignation of his Health MEC or to fire her.
Thirty-six deaths are also high, higher in fact than the 34 mineworkers killed at Marikana in August 2012.
Thirty-six vulnerable people, each with as much right to live as you and me.
They felt pain, they cried out – but nobody in power would hear them
Just think about it. To each death, there is a name, and people they loved and who loved them.
If I had time I would read out all the names.
But here are just two names:
Aaron Vuyo Nqondwana, His father Christopher
His father Christopher Nqondwana says:
“I have loved my son more than any ordinary family could have. My son was lying in the middle drawer of the mortuary, bleeding profusely from the mouth, with a ball of cotton wool in his mouth. If you can phone me, Mr Makhura, Mr Motsoaledi, and say ‘This is what killed your son’, I think I may be able to rest.”
Nokuthula Sweetness Funane
Her niece Brenda says:
“My father was killed in Thembisa during the ANC and Inkatha wars, his body was left outside his mother’s gate. And now my aunt has died. My grandmother’s words were, ‘I have lost two children to this ANC, and not once have they come to account.’ In a meeting with the department, an official said to me, ‘Did you think your aunt was never going to die?’’’
I am pleased that the Honourable Premier is listening to the family members now, but he should have listened earlier and then nobody would have died.
Thank goodness I forced the former Health MEC to reveal the deaths earlier rather than later.
Thank goodness the Health Ombudsman completed his investigation quite speedily.
If it wasn’t for this, Qedani Mahlangu would still be Health MEC, her officials would still be lying and covering up, and there would have been more deaths.
I want to say to the Honourable Premier that this is not a “game of politicians” as he has falsely described it.
This is no game at all. It is deadly serious.
If the deaths happened under a DA government the ANC would have been screaming genocide and demanding the resignation of the entire provincial government.
Please tell me what you would have said and done if more than 100 people had died, the vast majority of whom were black, under a DA government?
You can criticise us because we were perhaps not forceful enough in uncovering the horror in the health department earlier.
But it is you who are in power, and it is you who are accountable.
Your excuse is that you did not know.
The Honourable Premier likes evidence. I have presented incontrovertible evidence that he did know that they were being transferred to NGOs and not to other state health facilities as he has claimed.
If he was really as ignorant as he claims, then that is another reason for him to go.
The Honorable Premier comes from a political party where members are notoriously unwilling to show political accountability and only resign under the utmost duress.
Mathews Phosa, the former ANC Premier of Mpumalanga, has spoken of his Damascus moment at the opening of Parliament “when Speaker Baleka Mbete callously, coldly and clinically refused to allow Parliament to bow their heads to show that they feel the pain of the families of the 94 who had died because the government looked the other way.”
When will the ANC have its own Damascus moment?
The Honourable Gwen Ramokgopa, who is strangely the only ANC speaker in this debate, has said the following:
“I still do not fully comprehend how it was possible that the Constitution of our land, the National Health Act, the National Mental Health Act, the Health Professions Council Act, the South African Nursing Act, the Public Service Act as well as the plethora of policies and interventions like the Batho Pele Policy all failed the most vulnerable amongst us.”
It is a very good question. And the answer is that it was this ANC provincial government, led by this Premier, who allowed it to happen.
Real accountability starts with acknowledging the truth.
The ANC has lost the moral authority to govern.
We shouldn’t even be having a debate about removing the Premier.
He should be resigning of his own accord.
There is a secret vote at the conclusion of this debate.
Members of the ruling party can have their Damascus moment, like Mathews Phosa, and vote their conscience.
If they do not, we will know when we count the votes.
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health
082 333 4222