The Nokuthula Ngwenya Community Healthcare Centre, in Dunnottar, Nigel – hosted many disgruntled community healthcare workers (CHW) this morning. Last year November, Health Minister Aaron Mostoaledi promised to absorb over 40 000 community healthcare workers on a permanent basis. This announcement was made at the public hearings held by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), in the Alberton Civic Centre.
Ekurhuleni community healthcare worker representative Busisiwe Mtshali said that the Department of health will only be giving CHWs twelve-month contracts, instead of the permanent contracts they were promised. “We want the Minister of Health to come here and tell us what state of mind he was in when he promised us these contracts – and what has changed since. Which constitutional law has been created to keep us as volunteers and temporary staff for over twelve years? Is the constitution only applicable to certain workers but not all?” questioned Busisiwe.
According to the workers on strike, they have exhausted all internal procedures prior to the protest. They spoke to Ekurhuleni sub-region coordinators, labour relations officers, multiple district executives, provincial boards as well as Dr Yogan Pillay, Deputy Director General at the South African National Department of Health. However, their demands were ignored throughout. Busisiwe said, “What hurts us most is that we are dying, and when that happens, we can’t leave anything for our children. We don’t have houses – we live in shacks, we don’t have money or food. Aaron Mostoaledi is a member of the ANC, and we are losing trust and hope in this government because they are not using the proper legislation of the country – even though our president said that if you have been volunteering or temporary for 3 months you should receive a permanent contract.”
Nhlanhla Simelane, Ekurhuleni community healthcare worker, said that the government manipulates the system by sometimes claiming that CHWs are government employees, as well as, also claiming that CHWs are employees of Smart Purse Solutions which is the NGO that pays them. “The department of health is creating problems for us in our households. Our wives and brothers see us waking up every morning, going to work and expect us to have something to show for it at the end of the month – but we don’t. We’re not even being paid a salary or stipend, we are getting a grant! The community appreciates the work that we do, but never the government.”
Working directly with the communities, community healthcare workers have a big influence on the general public. They have sworn to use this influence to dissuade other citizens from voting for ANC. Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni Cllr Mzwandile Masina was approached by community healthcare representative. Busisiwe Mtshali to try and intervene in this matter, but the mayor refused on the account that the issue was outside of his jurisdiction. Busisiwe said, “So this means we have been disregarded by national government, provincial government and even the mayor of where we live. Why should we vote? Why should we vote for people who do nothing for us? And we work with the community, we will make sure that the ANC falls in the next election.” Immediately after – the crowd erupted in unison: “Phantsi nge ANC, phantsi!”