8 July 2011
President Jacob Zuma has announced plans to build a new R250-million hospital in Limpopo to address critical health challenges in one of South Africa’s most rural provinces.
Zuma made the announcement during a visit to Siloam village, about 40 kilometres from Beit Bridge, on Thursday. Addressing the villagers, Zuma said the hospital would be built in phases over a period of three years and would replace the old hospital in the area.
“We are here to check how government is performing and, as part of that, we want to ensure that you are happy with the services that are being rendered to you,” Zuma told locals.
Accompanied by Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale, Zuma said the government’s new monitoring and evaluation approach would ensure that issues of health and education remained top of the state’s service delivery agenda.
“The monitoring we are doing is not through papers. It is concrete, and we want to see and hear what people are saying, so when something is not working it can be changed,” Zuma said after listening to complaints from the residents about the current Siloam Hospital.
Earlier, Zuma went on an impromptu walkabout at the hospital. People from the dusty streets of the village, who had gathered outside the hospital to welcome Zuma, greeted him with cheers.
As he passed one of them, Muhatuli Mphepu shouted out, demanding that Zuma fire all the managers at the hospital “because they are useless.”
“We want you to fire all of them, Msholozi, because they are useless and people are dying because we do not have a proper hospital system here,” she said in Tshivenda.
Speaking at the community gathering afterwards, Zuma said an investigation would look into the challenges experienced at the hospital.
‘Don’t be afraid of the government’
A sad picture of poverty emerged during Zuma’s visit, with people living in shacks pleading with the President to address unemployment and lack of amenities in the area.
Zuma stressed that his visit remained focused on health matters, particularly the issue of the hospital. He asked residents who had raised other issues to write them down and pass the list to his officials.
He encouraged those who attended to speak their minds “and don’t be afraid of the government.”
“No baba come here to the front, come and speak from here next to me so people can see you. Don’t listen to that one …” Zuma jokingly said after his spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, tried to interfere with one of the community speakers.
Nurses also came in for harsh criticism from residents, who complained that they often had to wait for several hours at the hospital before receiving attention.
After the meeting, Zuma was whisked away by helicopter to Lebowakgomo, where he visited another hospital before a meeting with officials at the provincial legislature.