Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba has come under fire for “shifting the blame” to apartheid for the failure of the R10m ambulance scooter project.
The multimillion-rand project was initially to transport patients in rural areas to clinics and hospitals in a manner that would limit the spread of Covid-19.
However, health minister Zweli Mkhize said the medical scooters did not meet the basic criteria for “patient transport as an ambulance”. Mkhize said the national health department was not consulted on the specifications before the procurement of the scooters.
“However, the province has been advised that none of these scooters will be used as ambulances because they do not meet the specific requirements as provided for in the EMS regulations, such as minimum patient compartment space and equipment requirements,” he said.
Speaking in parliament this week, Gomba suggested apartheid was to blame for the scooter saga.
Gomba blamed the situation on the system of institutionalised racial segregation, saying that the province was still negatively affected by it, two decades later.
“The Covid-19 pandemic not only came unexpectedly but also presented itself in a new dynamic. It has also exposed the weaknesses of our health system, and that is linked to the design of apartheid infrastructure. Our people must be dragged in wheelbarrows to access health services,” she said.
Gomba said while others believed that the scooter project was an example of wasteful expenditure, it showed the “inequalities in our society”.
“Some believe the scooter project was an example of wasteful expenditure, but it just shows the inequalities in our society. I’m convinced that items for campaigning are becoming more limited as we address the fundamental needs of our citizens in our vision for access to health care for all, and the Eastern Cape was bold enough to implement these interventions,” she said.
Watch Gomba’s address below:
— Bulelani Phillip (@BulelaniPhillip) July 14, 2020
On Wednesday, the DA slammed Gomba’s claims and called for urgent intervention by national government in the running of the Eastern Cape health department and for the MEC to be sacked.
The party’s shadow deputy minister of health, Lindy Wilson, said Gomba should be fired immediately and her department placed under administration.
“There should be no doubt that apartheid was an abhorrent system which left SA communities with incredible challenges of inequality,” said Wilson in a statement. “However, it should not be used as an excuse 26 years later to cover up the MEC and her department’s hand in the ‘scooter scandal’.
“Unless the MEC steps up and turns the health-care situation in her province around, she will have the blood of thousands on her hands.”
By Unathi Nkanjeni – TimesLIVE