23 September 2005
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has urged South Africa’s black middle class to reinvest in their communities, to create the skills needed for the country to achieve the government’s target of 6% economic growth.
Addressing the 20th anniversary celebration of the Medical Education for South African Blacks (Mesab) in Johannesburg on Wednesday night, Mlambo-Ngcuka said the rise of the black middle class was exciting, but came with responsibility.
“Make sure that you not only serve, but create others like you,” she said.
Mesab is a collaborative US and South African effort to improve the health of SA’s people by training black health professionals in the country.
The organisation was founded in 1985 by Herbert and Joy Kaiser, who had extensive careers in the US Foreign Service.
Speaking at the class of 1949 Commencement Address at his alma mater Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania last year, Herbert Kaiser said that during his three-year stay in South Africa in 1971 he was treated successfully for melanoma, a virulent form of cancer.
“I benefited from the superb medical care available to whites but denied to black South Africans in apartheid South Africa,” he told the gathering.
He said several years later the surgeon who saved his life wrote to him to say he was leaving his private practice to train black doctors. This, Sullivan said, was the seed that grew into Mesab.
When Mesab started in 1985 there were only 500 black doctors in South Africa. Today, more than 6 800 Mesab-funded graduates work in the country’s public and private healthcare sectors.
At the anniversary celebration, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said South African healthcare had benefited enormously from Mesab’s 10 600 bursaries and scholarship grants to black healthcare professionals.
She said the government was busy finalising a human resources plan to curb the drain of healthcare professionals from the public service.
Other interventions include the introduction of the midlevel worker – pharmacist assistants, physiotherapy, occupational health and radiography assistants – to reduce professionals’ workload, she said.
The health department was also working with other departments such as National Treasury and Public Service and Administration to improve health professionals’ pay and working conditions.
“This will ensure that in the long term the support we get from organisations such as Mesab benefits the public health service by retaining these professionals,” said Tshabalala-Msimang.