Covid-19

WC Legislature

Western Cape health budget passed in spite of ANC objections

The Western Cape will publish PPE procurement details as an effort at transparency in the interests of clean governance. (Illustrative image | Sources: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo)

It was a case of tit-for-tat in the Western Cape legislature on Thursday as debate raged between the ANC and DA over whether enough had been done in the province to meet the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Western Cape Health MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, on Thursday once again called out the presidency for failing to stick to promises made to support the province in its fight against Covid-19. Mbombo was speaking as her department’s Special Adjustment Budget was debated in the provincial legislature. 

The budget debate took place following the tabling of Finance MEC David Maynier’s “Budget to beat Covid-19”, of which health gained R1,8-billion for personal protective equipment, increasing bed capacity, screening and testing. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Western Cape unveils ‘Covid-19 budget’

On Thursday, during departmental budgets, speakers from all parties thanked healthcare workers for their efforts during the pandemic. Mbombo revealed that 37 healthcare professionals had succumbed to Covid-19, over 4,000 had recovered, and there were 513 active cases among healthcare workers in the province. 

Addressing the legislature, Mbombo said, “I still maintain history will judge us on how we handled Covid-19 and how we spent taxpayer’s money.” 

Mbombo said assistance from the national government through the reprioritised and extra funded budget felt like raising a child as a single parent, and only when the child is an adult does the other parent “offer to buy nappies”. 

Mbombo made a similar claim on Wednesday when she accused the presidency of failing the province by not sending financial support quickly enough. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Province to disclose PPE procurement details to avoid corruption

But the ANC’s provincial spokesperson on health, Rachel Windvoegel, dismissed Mbombo’s claims. Windvoegel spoke of the decision by the national government to put the country into an extended lockdown: “It was during this period in which the DA showed its true colours, that it was mainly concerned about saving white businesses over saving lives… 

“Because of its poor handling of the pandemic, we continued to see an exponential rise in infections. It was only recently, after the introduction of the new testing strategy that we saw lower numbers due to under testing,” said Windvoegel. 

Addressing the province’s response to the pandemic, Windvoegel said, “I am worried that once Covid-19 has passed, we will not have any tangible thing to show for all the billions spent; we will tell stories of field hospitals and temporary staff,” adding that, “the MEC blamed the whole world yesterday, but failed to show her province’s shortcomings”. 

DA provincial spokesperson on health, Wendy Philander, dismissed Windvoegel’s claims and echoed Mbombo’s sentiments. 

“Reality is, the ANC government is squandering money meant for Covid-19,” said Philander, adding that there was no “finger-in-the-pie in the Western Cape”. 

Philander said this was no time to score political points, adding that “one life lost to this pandemic is one too many”. 

Despite the ANC objecting to the health budget, it was passed in the legislature. DM

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