On Monday, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) will bring charges of corruption against Free State MEC for health Benny Malakoane, head of the Free State health department David Motau, provincial deputy director general for health Teboho Moji and other senior officials in the Free State health department.
According to Mark Heywood from social justice organisation Section27, the charges will be laid at the Park Road police station in Bloemfontein after the appearance of 130 community health workers in the Bloemfontein regional court this morning. The community health workers are being accused of “attending a prohibited gathering” in July in front of the Free State health department head quarters, Bophelo House, that was not authorised by the government and police. The workers were protesting after what they considered “unfair dismissal” in April.
About 1 000 health activists, patients and community health workers gathered in front of the court on Monday morning in support of the community health workers.
The charges against Malakoane and the Free State health department officials relate to a matter first reported in the Mail & Guardian newspaper on July 4 2014. The article “How a dying women’s bed was taken by an ANC official” states that Malakoane had ordered that an intensive care unit (ICU) bed at the Dihlabeng Regional Hospital in Bethlehem in the eastern Free State be made available to an ANC official, referred to as Patient X – even though clinical guidelines did not indicate that the official should be given a bed.
“The Mail & Guardian quotes doctors indicating that other patients would have benefited more from access to the ICU bed. One of these patients died shortly after. The TAC has reason to believe the Mail & Guardian story is accurate,” the TAC said in a statement issued on Monday.
‘Deserving case for the ICU’
In an affidavit that will be submitted to the South African Police Service on Monday morning, TAC secretary general Anele Yawa states: “In addition to the information reported in the Mail & Guardian, I have reason to believe that Patient X was a relative or associate of another senior political leader in the Free State. I also have reason to believe that members of the staff at Dihlabeng Regional Hospital and Phekholong district hospital can confirm the facts reported in the Mail & Guardian.”
Yawa said, “Malakoane appears to have provided conflicting responses to these allegations”.
“In an interview with eNCA … his spokesperson … asserted that MEC Malakoane went to Pekholong hospital, saw Patient X and assessed his file … and jointly agreed with the specialist that this was a deserving case for the ICU,” said Yawa.
But, in contrast, the affidavit says, “an article appearing … in the Mail & Guardian … quotes MEC Malakoane as providing a very different account: ‘I didn’t even know the patient’s identity or that he had been transferred to ICU … All I did was to ask [medical personnel] to isolate the patient, who appeared to be in a coma, to prevent psychological trauma to the ones next door’.”
In a separate matter, Malakoane appeared in the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court on August 27 on charges of fraud and corruption relating to his time as Matjhabeng municipal manager. The case was postponed until November.
Malakoane could not be reached for comment.
The Free State health department spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, sent this response to our story on 2 September 2014:
“The TAC has a right that is guaranteed in the Constitution
to seek relief as they deem fit and the courts are but one of those relief
instruments. As a department, we will await the outcome of the
court ruling to determine an appropriate action.”
Mia Malan is Bhekisisa's editor-in-chief and executive director. Under her leadership, Bhekisisa’s online readership increased 30 fold and its donor funding eightfold between 2013 and 2019. Malan has won more than 20 African journalism awards for her work and is a former fellow of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.