Horrific death at Helen Joseph hospital highlights need for broad rescue plan

I am horrified by the ordeal suffered by a Johannesburg mother whose daughter died unattended at the casualty department of the Helen Joseph Hospital earlier this week.

According to Ms Nqobile Dube, she took her 26-year-old critically ill daughter Sichelesile to the hospital on Monday at 1 pm and was told she would be admitted at 9 pm that night. But when she came back on late Tuesday afternoon, she found that she had passed away in her wheelchair at the same spot, with her mouth and eyes wide open.

This terrible story highlights once again the neglect that many patients have experienced at Helen Joseph’s casualty, which is grossly overcrowded with patients who can wait days before being admitted to a ward.

The situation has worsened with the Covid-19 epidemic as well as the extra burden of patients who would have gone to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH) which has been largely closed since the fire there in April this year.

Instead of assisting the Helen Joseph, the Gauteng Health Department has dithered in reopening the safe parts of CMJH and wasted huge amounts of money in building extra beds in the wrong areas without staff and equipment. This includes R500 million spent on the 181-bed Anglo Ashanti Hospital in the Far West Rand that does not even have oxygen for the small number of Covid patients admitted there.

None of this excuses the poor management at Helen Joseph where staff ignored a desperately ill patient for more than a day until she died.

A full investigation is needed into this incident, but what is really required is a complete overhaul of the Gauteng Health Department to ensure that money is spent effectively to ensure adequate staff and equipment at all public hospitals.

The DA calls for a rescue plan that would involve the best brains in the private sector to fix the deep-rooted problem in this dysfunctional Department, otherwise the hospital horrors will continue.

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Were the people of Gauteng robbed of R2,5 billion?

While people in Gauteng are vulnerable to the very dire risks of Covid-19, it is extremely concerning that the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation has not yet revealed its report into possible corruption related to the building of Covid-19 related infrastructure.

In response to allegations of corruption, President Cyril Ramaphosa, instructed the SIU to investigate all government spending in terms of Covid-19 regulations. This included Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as health infrastructure. As we now know, the PPE tenders were manipulated to unjustly enrich people connected to the ruling party and the question now being asked is whether the same manipulation was applied to tenders for the building of R2,5 billion worth of Covid-19 related infrastructure. This infrastructure was meant to bolster hospital capacity in response to the pandemic.

At the beginning of June, the provincial government had spent R2,01 billion of the original budget, with a further R513 million to be spent in the current financial year.

While the SIU has confirmed to the DA that the infrastructure projects that have been undertaken as part of the government’s Covid-19 response are under investigation, there has been no feedback on how this element of the investigation is going.

Extremely poor planning resulted in a budget of R589 million being allocated to create just 181 ICU beds at Anglo-Gold Ashanti when that amount of money could have built a whole new hospital from scratch. In addition, R264 million was spent on the now decommissioned Nasrec facility, where the majority of beds were not utilised, resulting in wasteful expenditure.

Despite the huge expenditure, many of the facilities have not been available to treat Covid-19 patients. Who knows how many people have become incredibly sick, or even died as a result?

The people of Gauteng have a legitimate expectation that the money they contribute via their taxes will be spent wisely for the benefit of all the people of this province.

The DA will not hesitate to hold the government to account to ensure that public funds are not stolen or wasted. We will continue to pressure the government and the SIU to provide information relating to the infrastructure spend as the people of Gauteng deserve to know exactly how their taxes are spent.

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Gauteng Health spends R17.6 million on corruption investigations but no money recovered as hospital services suffer

The Gauteng Health Department has spent R17.6 million on 12 corruption investigations since January 2018, but has recovered no money that is desperately needed to provide hospital services for sick patients.

This information is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mokgethi, only 4 of the investigations have concluded and they concerned the following: 

• Fraudulent deposits at Tambo Memorial Hospital 

• Fraudulent activities regarding Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVAs) at Thelle Mogoerane Hospital

• Procurement irregularities at Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

• R500 million wasted on the V-Block data storage contract

Nobody was fired as a result of these investigations although disciplinary warnings were given and 6 officials involved with the V-Block matter resigned.

I am astounded that no criminal charges were laid as a result of the investigations, and not a single cent of funds recovered. In the case of the R500 million V-Block scandal, this should surely have resulted in criminal charges against the implicated officials. And why was money not recovered in this case?

Eight other investigations are still ongoing into various fraud and corruption cases.

The most expensive investigation is costing R3.4 million, and is looking at human resource and supply chain irregularities at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Soweto.

I suspect that the department is being ripped off by expensive legal firms who conduct these investigations.

In many cases the investigation costs more than what is alleged to have been stolen!

The department needs to have effective measures to prevent theft and fraud in the first place. But if it occurs, the investigations should be cost-effective and speedy, with stolen money recovered and the culprits charged in court.

The DA calls for the department to review the exorbitant cost of investigations by legal firms, and to ensure that criminal charges are always laid where indicated. The in-house capacity for investigations should also be expanded.

These measures will enable more money to be spent on the department’s prime purpose to provide quality health services to sick people.

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Thousands of patients will suffer as major parts of Joburg hospital will only open next year

Thousands of patients who attended the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital will continue to suffer from its closure as the infrastructure requirements to open large sections are only expected to be completed next year.

This is revealed by Gauteng Infrastructure Development MEC Tasneem Motara in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Motara, there is a need for “alternative solutions to make the hospital compliant to the latest legislation”, and professional service providers were commissioned to investigate the relevant requirements for electrical, structural, mechanical, architectural, fire and general occupational health and safety. 

A phased approach has been adopted as follows:

Short term – certificate of occupation received for Radiology and Oncology.

Medium term – areas declared structurally safe and deemed critical by clinicians.

Long term – areas that were damaged by the fire and declared structurally unsafe in the Northern side of the hospital. 

The timetable for the medium term infrastructure completion is 2023, and for the long term the dates are “dependent on the outcome of the forensic investigation and the detailed structural investigation recommendations.”

 I am concerned that there is no budget allocation in the current financial year to fix the hospital, but funds will be sourced from existing maintenance and other budgets which may not be sufficient.

 R100 million has been requested for remedial work for the fire, but there is no estimated construction cost as yet for the repair of the most damaged part of the hospital. I estimate that it will likely be about R1 billion for full repairs. 

 Meanwhile, more than 2300 patients wait for cataract operations at the hospital, and there are huge backlogs for other types of surgery that affects hundreds of others.

I receive calls every day from anxious patients whose surgery was postponed because of the Covid-19 crisis, and they now suffer in pain without any indication when their operations will be done.

I fear that the provincial departments that failed to prevent or contain the devastating fire at this hospital will not be capable of meeting their own targets to fix the damage.

The DA will push for the use of the best private sector skills to expedite the hospital repairs, and for private hospitals to be contracted to cut the surgery backlogs for public patients.

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Looting and violence could have been stopped before it started- adopt DA’s Community Safety Oversight Bill

Gauteng businesses have been severely affected by the recent incidents of violence and looting, where many lives have been lost while the police failed to ensure the safety of residents and businesses.

This violence and looting could have been stopped before it started should the Gauteng ANC-led administration had adopted the DA’s Gauteng Community Safety Oversight Bill.

A copy of the Bill can be accessed _here.

The DA’s Gauteng Community Safety Oversight Bill is the only solution to improve police intelligence, to fight and prevent crime, and to ensure that the recent violent unrest and looting does not happen again in our province.

There are claims that SAPS’s lack of intelligence is one of the reasons why they failed to prevent these incidents before they occurred. The DA has written to the Gauteng Provincial SAPS Commissioner asking that SAPS and security companies share intelligence information to prevent future violence and looting.

The DA’s Gauteng Community Safety Oversight Bill is one of the best solutions to all safety and crime challenges that we face on a daily basis. The Bill would give effect to the province’s constitutional mandate and to regulate the Gauteng Provincial Government’s powers and functions regarding its oversight function over the police.

The Bill also covers the following additional mechanisms:

  • Provide for the support of and cooperation with the Civilian Secretariat and the Provincial Secretariat.
  • Provide directives for the establishment of community police forums and boards.
  • Provide for the accreditation of organisations and associations as neighbourhood watches and cater for partnerships with community organisations.
  • The establishment of the Office of the Gauteng Provincial Police Ombudsman to investigate complaints regarding the police and an advisory committee that fosters greater intelligence to the MEC by roping in all sectors of society, including legal, NGOs, business, and security companies.

This Bill will help improve SAPS’s efficiency in preventing and fighting crime, and without a doubt, will create an environment where communities will be able to trust the police through sharing of sensitive intelligence information.

The Bill has appeared once before the Committee for Subordinate Legislation and the Committee for Community Safety, where it was rejected by several ANC Members. In due course, the Bill will go for public hearings, followed by a final vote in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

The DA is appealing to all the members of the GPL, regardless of political affiliation, to vote with their conscience in the interests of the safety of residents by supporting this Bill, as it is the only viable solution of ensuring a safe and secure Gauteng.

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

School vandalism will harm future of children, SAPS national intelligence must investigate

Recent vandalism of schools in Gauteng have the very likely potential of harming the future of students, unfairly leaving them without much-needed resources for learning and teaching. The Democratic Alliance (DA) condemns the vandalism of 54 schools in Gauteng since the beginning of the year.

It is terribly concerning that schools continue to be a target for criminals and that both the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) and Community Safety have dismally failed to prevent such incidents of vandalism, theft, and burglaries, where the GDE continues to lose millions of rands repairing and replacing resources stolen and damaged during these incidents. 

Such money could be used to eradicate asbestos schools to protect the health of vulnerable children, and also fix deteriorating infrastructure across the province to ensure a conducive learning and teaching environment.

 The department’s school’s safety strategy is ineffective, and it is evident through the number of vandalism cases reported.

This is a clear indication that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is also failing to prioritise school safety with adequate police visibility. 

The DA has tabled questions to the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to ascertain what measures are being put in place to safeguard our schools and the number of cases, arrests and convictions that have been made so far.

We are calling on the SAPS intelligence unit to urgently investigate the syndicates that are involved in vandalism, theft, and burglary of our schools so that the perpetrators can be apprehended and there is a stop to this criminal element. 

Furthermore, DA proposals such as installation of fences or walls surrounding schools, installation of CCTV cameras and alarm systems in hotspot schools linked to the nearest police stations, night shift patrollers to safeguard schools, and the co-operation of community members would make a profound difference in preventing such incidents from happening again. 

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

54 percent non-functional SAPS flying squad vehicles could have been used to save lives, businesses during looting unrest

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is calling on the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko to urgently liaise with her national counterpart Minister of Police, Bheki Cele to ensure that the 124 Gauteng SAPS flying squad vehicles that are non-functional are immediately attended to and brought back to their respective flying squad base to prevent and fight crime in the province.

These vehicles could have been used during the recent incidents of violence and looting to ensure maximum police visibility and to prevent such incidents from happening.  The livelihoods of so many Gauteng residents could have been saved if these vehicles were in functional condition.

This information was revealed by MEC Mazibuko in a written reply to my questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

According to Mazibuko, 124 out of 231 Gauteng SAPS flying squad vehicles are non-functional and have been at various workshops, some for more than three months. In total, there are only 107 Gauteng SAPS flying squad vehicles that are operational.

The table below indicates the total number of vehicles allocated per base, non-functional vehicles and those that are functional:

Gauteng SAPS flying squad Total number of vehicles allocated Total number of non-functional vehicles Total number of functional vehicles
Pretoria flying squad 35 19 16
Soweto flying squad 30 15 15
Sedibeng flying squad 31 16 15
Benoni flying squad 40 20 20
Germiston flying squad 32 20 12
Johannesburg flying squad 37 14 23
West Rand flying squad 26 20 6
Total 231 124 107

In addition, there is no specific timeframe as to when the vehicles currently in for repairs, will be returned to their respective flying squad base.

This is unacceptable as the SAPS must have a turnaround time as to when the vehicles will be fixed based on the level of damages.

This has also negatively impacted the work of the police flying squad which are mostly deployed in crime hotspots areas, particularly during this recent unrest where they could have assisted in preventing the people from looting and damaging malls and shops.

The lack of an adequate number of vehicles hampers police service delivery and puts the safety of the residents of Gauteng at risk, leaving SAPS officers with fewer vehicles for visibility patrol.

A DA government would ensure that these vehicles that have been at the workshops for more than three months would be attended to immediately and bought back to the Gauteng flying squad. Accordingly, what is required is an action plan to get each vehicle repaired, with timelines. We will be calling for this plan.

The DA will be writing an open letter addressed to both Minister Cele and MEC Mazibuko requesting their immediate intervention in this regard.

We will also continue to put pressure on the current government to provide adequate resources to the SAPS as our residents deserve a police service that is well resourced to keep them safe and protect their precious resources such as the malls and shops.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Less money for small business recovery with establishment of duplicate entity to stimulate township economy

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is concerned that the proposed Gauteng Township Economy Development (GTED) Bill will be duplicating a function of the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) and will be a waste of such money that could rather be used to assist small businesses recover from loss and damages following the looting and riots in the province last week.

Currently the draft bill makes provision for the establishment of a Development Fund and board that will not have a CEO.   The DA believes that this is a waste of taxpayers’ money and that the GEP is more than equipped to help grow the township economy, and save so many livelihoods that are at great risk of being destroyed.

The GEP’s mandate is to ensure that small businesses and entrepreneurs are given the support they need to help grow their business. However for a long time now, this entity has been failing on its core mandate.

It is critical now more than ever that the GEP fulfils its mandate given the recent looting and vandalism that has taken place across Gauteng as well as the economy-killing Covid-19 regulations that have forced many businesses to close their doors.

The township economy plays a pivotal role in the creation of jobs that people in the province are in desperate need of.

While the main aim of the GTED is to help stimulate economic growth in our township, we cannot allow our hard-earned taxpayers’ money to be wasted on frivolous state-owed entities.

Public comments on the bill close on 31 July 2021.

The DA is encouraging all small businesses to comment on the GTED bill, so that all inputs can be taken into consideration before the bill is signed into law. Comments can be sent to the DA on haveyoursay@da.org.za

We will also be submitting our inputs on this bill to ensure that the GEP is considered as an entity to execute this bill’s mandate. We will not allow the current government to waste taxpayers’ money on the establishment of new entity that does not have value for money, while innocent South Africans continue to lose their jobs, with no relief from government.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status. 

Parents and stakeholders must ensure schooling resumes with no disruptions so children can learn in peace

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng calls on parents and different stakeholders across the province to ensure that learning and teaching resume on Monday, 26 July 2021 with no disruption to cover for the time lost due to the early closure of the schools as a result of the Covid-19 infections spike.  Children across the province deserve to resume with learning in peace, considering the many hiccups experienced since the beginning of the year.

Due to the sudden change to level 4 lockdown last month, schools had closed earlier than scheduled for winter break. This has resulted in students losing out on school time and falling behind with the curriculum.

Even though there is a rotational learning and teaching system in place as a result of this pandemic, the number of schooling days have been limited for certain grades which are not enough for effective learning and teaching.

The DA shares the concerns of parents and different stakeholders that the Covid-19 pandemic is severely affecting the education sector. However, we do not support any delays in the re-opening of schools.

 We also welcome the rapid vaccination of 92% of teachers and support staff to date. This is positive development in the sector and the DA is encouraging all education employees to take vaccines to ensure that there will be no disruption of schooling going forward.

Furthermore, the Gauteng Department of Education has reassured us that they are ready to resume schooling on Monday as all schools would have received their personal protective equipment (PPEs) on Friday.

The DA is appealing to parents and different stakeholders to allow children to go to school when they re-open tomorrow. We believe that all education stakeholders must do their best to ensure that we protect the future of our children.

We will continue to conduct oversight inspections to different schools across the province to ensure that there are adequate PPEs and resources so that learning and teaching are not affected. In schools where there is no bulk water supply networks, we will ensure that these schools are provided with elevated tanks and water is delivered timeously every day. The DA will report all the issues to the Gauteng Department of Education which has a responsibility to fix and deliver resources to our schools.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status. 


R500 million Gauteng hospital has only six Covid patients

The Gauteng Health Department used R500 million of Covid-19 funds to refurbish the Anglo Ashanti hospital in the Far West Rand, but it currently has only six Covid patients receiving low-level care.

This has been revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

Premier David Makhura opened this 181-bed hospital with great fanfare on 14 May, but according to Mokgethi only 25 Covid-19 patients have been treated so far in total. These patients receive “step down services”, and need to be transferred to other West Rand hospitals if they need specialist treatment.

The tragedy is that the expensive refurbishment of this hospital, which was donated by the AngloGold Ashanti mining company, was to provide ICU beds, but they cannot be used as they do not have equipment. None of the beds have oxygen provision for patients, which is the main thing that saves lives in this terrible epidemic.

There are 32 staff running this hospital and 24 more staff are being recruited to start on 1 August.

It is scandalous that so much money has been spent on this hospital which is far from major population centres and currently has 175 empty beds and vastly more staff than patients.

Meanwhile, other public hospitals are straining to cope with the flood of Covid-19 patients and many die because of a dire shortage of ICU beds.

It would have been far better to have spent the R500 million on extra beds and staff at other hospitals, rather than this white elephant hospital.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating the spending of funds on the hospital, which confirms my suspicion that corruption is involved in this appalling waste of money.

The DA will push for accountability in this matter and a better use of funds to save lives of hospital patients in Gauteng.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.