- There were some “concerns” about the availability and quality of PPE for medical personnel, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told the National Assembly.
- It’s an act of ubuntu to send PPE to another country, like Cuba, he said.
- This, after opposition MPs pointed to the “rampant looting” in the procurement of PPE.
Against the backdrop of “rampant looting” in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), Health Minister Zweli Mkhize admitted there were some “concerns” with the availability of adequate PPE for medical personnel.
He was answering questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday, hours after the Auditor-General made damning findings about Covid-19 related procurement.
DA MP Siviwe Gwarube said Mkhize was “aware that the country is outraged by the rampant looting that has taken place across the country by those who are politically connected to the governing party”.
“Hayi!” an MP, presumably from the governing party, said.
“He is also aware that the direct result of this theft has led to many healthcare workers not receiving adequate PPE on time or being given poor quality equipment while serving on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Gwarube.
“Indeed, this kind of corruption has not been victimless. Those who suffered are the people of this country and the dedicated healthcare workers who deserve so much more from their government,” she added.
She asked Mkhize to explain in what capacity ANC secretary-general “Ace Magashule was donating PPE and other related equipment worth millions of rands to the Cuban government several weeks ago and where such equipment came from when the country was to be struggling to source basic PPE for healthcare workers”.
She also asked if it was not blurring the line between party and state.
“Hayi! Hayi!” a few ANC MPs responded.
Mkhize started his response in isiZulu, but later switched to English.
“There were donations which were made by South Africans to Cuba; they called us, some of them reported to the party secretary, to say they must just be aware that they are making this contribution,” he said.
“It was a symbol of ubuntu to actually make such a contribution. So I don’t think we can blame anyone who would participate to help, to make contributions to any particular country, as it were.
“I don’t have specific knowledge of where the source of the PPE’s was, but what I do know, in the past, the private sector would put together, and then look for a prominent leader and ask that they must work with them to send the donations over. But that does not in its own mean that there is a blurring of the party lines and the state lines.”
EFF MP Naledi Chirwa said on her oversight visits she found nurses and doctors without PPE or with inferior PPE, who got infected with Covid-19.
“How have you taken accountability for the fact that your work has resulted in people getting low-quality PPE and you know because some of the nurses have told government and the provincial departments, but nothing has been done?” she asked.
Mkhize said: “At this point, I must say, we have found that in a number of areas, that when we send inspections, there have been, indeed, concerns that our team have found with the availability of the PPE.”
He said where people spotted inadequacies, they “have to go there and inspect at that level”.
“When there are challenges, report it. We need to take action in that facility.”
He said all MECs and heads of department were instructed to ensure consequence management.
“Each time this matter gets raised, we need to go and investigate.”
ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe said some nurses had money deducted from their salaries for PPE, while the funds for PPE were looted.
“This, of course, is one of the ways they are proving how corrupt they are – by not giving proper masks and deducting from salaries.”
“Will the minister tell the house, whether nurses who lost their lives while attending to Covid-19 patients, did not die because of these unsuitable and inferior masks they were given, because of corrupt officials who steal money that should be purchasing appropriate masks?” Meshoe asked.
Mkhize said the issue of inferior masks had been raised with them.
“So we go and investigate on a case by case situation. We have ensured that this must be followed up so that no one is exposed to the kind of situation that the honourable member is referring to,” he said.
“I am completely unaware of any nurses from whom there has been a deduction of salaries because there’s a need to buy PPE.”
He asked Meshoe to provide him with details.
“We do want to convey our condolences to those who have lost their lives.
“But when… if there can be any criminal action that is proven through a proper process, and of course this would mean that someone would have to face criminal prosecution.”
He said it was difficult to know the cause of infection.
He said from the public and private sector, there were about 31 000 medical personnel infected, and about 240 who had died.
“And we really do feel sad that we have lost some members or even the fact that some of them have been infected.”
“We continue to commit ourselves to ensure that all of them are protected.”
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