Maverick Citizen


‘I Am’ movement of SA health workers throws down the gauntlet to health minister and Gauteng premier

‘I Am’ movement of SA health workers throws down the gauntlet to health minister and Gauteng premier
Premier of Gauteng David Makhura (left). Minister of Health Joe Phaahla. (Photos: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo / / Gallo Images: Luba Lesolle)

Today, Maverick Citizen publishes an unprecedented open letter from more than 130 senior health professionals addressed to the Minister of Health and the Premier of Gauteng.

The health professionals include senior academics, senior specialists of major public hospitals and heads of department, a former director-general, deputy director-general, deans of university health faculties, former heads of provincial health departments, the chair and CEO of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, the president of the Medical Research Council and the CEO of the board of Healthcare Funders.

Each person signs “I am” followed by their name, as a direct challenge to authorities to discipline them if they dare.

The letter is written in solidarity with Dr Tim De Maayer, whose own open letter about the dire conditions at Rahima Moosa Mother & Child Hospital earned him the support of many – and a suspension from work. The resulting outcry saw him being reinstated, but there were reports of ongoing victimisation at work, which provoked another groundswell of support.

Read in Daily Maverick: A wake-up call for Health Department heads: Children are dying because of horrendous state of our public hospitals

The “I Am” movement arose spontaneously in recent days. 

It points to a shift in power within the health system, with those on the frontlines now more determined than ever to speak out about the appalling conditions under which they work – conditions patients are forced to endure.

The Minister of Health and Gauteng’s premier have yet to respond. We will seek and publish their response in due course. – Mark Heywood, Editor, Maverick Citizen.

Read in Daily Maverick: Rahima Moosa hospital problem ‘has metastasised throughout the healthcare system in South Africa’

Open Letter: The Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, and the Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura

We, health professionals and healthcare workers, academics, medical scientists and researchers, veteran healthcare activists and representatives of civil society concerned with and about the condition of public healthcare services hereby declare that:

  1. The irrefutable deterioration of the public healthcare service, the principal agency that underpins the constitutional entitlement of access to all necessary care, is a gross violation of the rights of all who live in South Africa and is an unconscionable assault on the well-being of patients attending public health facilities.
  2. Conditions of service that prohibit health personnel from speaking publicly on these deficiencies are reminiscent of apartheid-era practices to stifle rightful dissent and public disclosure and are contrary to the constitutional order.
  3. Victimisation of healthcare professionals who expose the profound administrative deficiencies plaguing public health facilities is accelerating the outward migration of health professionals who can no longer endure the moral injury caused by working in conditions that violate their ethical obligations.
  4. We stand foursquare behind healthcare workers subjected to unfair disciplinary sanction for publicly disclosing intolerable conditions at most provincial health facilities.

We, therefore, demand the following:

  1. The immediate and unequivocal cessation of all disciplinary action against Dr Tim De Maayer and his colleagues, and the institution of an independent inquiry into the related conduct of the relevant provincial officials and the CEO of the Rahima Moosa Mother & Child Hospital.
  2. The establishment of a standing Public Health Administration Review Commission to reconfigure the structure and operation of provincial health departments, including: a) The devolution of authority to independent, skilled and capable hospital boards accountable in the first instance to the facility and its staff, patients and communities and reporting to the Provincial Legislature on a regulated basis. b) The appointment of CEOs with operational and financial management skills by these duly constituted boards, in conjunction with the joint staff protocols of relevant academic medical faculties and the provincial administration.

We wish it to be known that we will actively oppose victimisation of healthcare workers and do all we can to protect their right to expose administrative actions that negatively affect their ability to comply with their ethical responsibilities.

For the removal of any doubt, the list of signatories to this letter should provide you with confidence that the matters canvassed in this letter should be taken up as a matter of great urgency, because every minute longer that this untenable situation obtains may be measured in lives lost. 

This is who we are:

I am Lufuno Rudo wa Mathivha

I am Aslam Dasoo

I am Lance Lasersohn

I am Angelique Coetzee

I am Guy Richards

I am Ames Dhai

I am Glenda Gray

I am James McIntyre

I am Yasmin Adam

I am Akhtar Hussain

I am Fazel Randera                  

I am Susan Goldstein

I am Malefetsane Ngatane

I am Selma Browde

I am Mashudu wa ha Nethononda

I am Morgan Chetty

I am Gill Eagle

I am Nkaki Sydwell Matlala

I am Guni Goolab

I am Paul Davis

I am Mike Sathekge

I am Jane Simmonds

I am John Gear

I am Masilo wa Marumo

I am Terence Carter

I am Alistair Calver

I am Adam Pyle

I am Elijah Nkosi

I am Mark Human

I am Ebrahim Variava

I am Alex van den Heever

I am Ramesh Bhoola

I am Hannetjie Ferreira

I’m Thami Mngoma

I am Carol Marshall

I am Priya Soma-Pillay

I am Beth Engelbrecht

I am Richard Tuft

I’m Lekgolo Moloto

I am Angela Mathee

I am Lucille Blumberg

I am Jeremy Nel

I am Tanya Cohen

I am Ernest Darkoh

I am Wendy Vogel

I am Adrienne Wulfsohn

I am Marian Jacobs

I am Shabir Madhi

I am Tony Lachman

I am Helen Schneider

I am Paul Ruff

I am Andy Gray

I am Ashraf Coovadia

I am Lerato Mosiah

I am Francois Venter

I am Greg van Wyk

I am Yogan Pillay

I am Mark Sonderup

I am Ian Sanne

I am Vishal Brijlal

I am Gareth Kantor

I am Sue Fawcus

I am Sally Mudly Padayachee

I am Nkateko Munisi

I am Ilana Edelstein

I am Sagie Pillay

I am Cecil Manitshana

I am Ashraf Grimwood

I am Binu Luke

I am Lauren Fok

I am Shereen Usdin

I am Monica Springfield

I am Wendy Stevens

I am Helen Rees

I am Shabir Banoo

I am Max Price

I am Zaheer Laher

I am Adams Tongman

I am Bada Pharasi

I am Haroon Saloojee

I am Daphney Nozizwe Conco

I am Ke Mabatho Ntombi Mutshekwane

I am Amanda Gcabashe

I am Pete Wharton-Hood

I am Mahomed Faruk Mahomed

I am Malikah Van Der Schyff

I am Simon Strachan

I am Sham Moodley

I am Russell Rensburg

I am Eric Buch

I am Girish Modi

I am Wendy Ovens

I am Neil Nair

I am Saths Cooper

I am Lionel Green-Thompson

I am Judy Dlamini

I am David Sekete

I am Mzukisi Grootboom

I am Biren Valodia

I am Edward Ngwenya

I am Tom Boyles

I am Gary Reubenson

I am Valerie Mizrahi

I am Safiyya Randera-Rees

I am Goolam Aboobaker 

I am Linda-Gail Bekker

I am Malebona Matsoso

I am Bobby Ramasia

I am Kgosi Letlape

I am Gail Andrews

I am Evan Shoul

I am Refiloe Masekela

I am Jens Pedersen

I am Martin Veller

I am Hendrik Hanekom

I am Barry Kistnasamy

I am David Motau

I am Shakti Pillay

I am Siven Maslamoney

I am Sibongile Tshabalala

I am Sasha Stevenson

I am Adam Mohammed

I am Stavros Nicolaou

I am Dumisani Bomela

I am Errol Anthony Holland

I am Katlego Mothudi

I am Fareed Abdullah

I am Jacob Poo

I am Bavesh Kana

I am Trish Hanekom

I am Peggy Kensani Serote

I am Lalitha Ramiah

I am Michelle Maserow

I am Tumi Semete

I am Koert Pretorius

I am Ameena Goga

I am Sheila Barsel 



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Nice one …

  • virginia crawford says:

    Can start a “We are ” on your side petition to support these brave health professionals?

  • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

    Well done and thank you to every signatory. About time the anc was placed on terms. Now let’s see if there is a positive response or ‘deny all and hide and hope it disappears’.

  • Hilary Morris says:

    How brave and brilliant is this? This is the kind of action that restores some faith in the possibility of a genuinely equal society. When South Africans of all races, colours, beliefs and creeds come together to improve society we can believe that “our people” (and those who are not), may benefit. Congratulations to the medical profession for finally speaking out, loudly and clearly.

  • Geoff Krige says:

    This is brilliant. Remove cadres, bring in competence. Now we need to roll out this idea to education, home affairs, municipal management, etc, etc.

  • Confucious Says says:

    Same bunch that want to implement the NHI!!

  • William Stucke says:

    I see a number of well-known and well respected names there. . .

    The reason that this is terribly important, is if we don’t sort out the management of the health system, and the disaster that it currently is, a National Health system will make the situation far worse. . . . We need a NHS, for the benefit of all. But we need one that actually works, not one destroyed by this government and the cadre deployments.

  • Stef Viljoen Viljoen says:

    I love the way South Africa seems to be starting to push back. And in a less destructive way too. Kudos!
    We are waking up. PLUS we might have a political alternative soon. I am hopeful again.

  • Shaheen Mehtar says:

    Well done! I missed signing this letter. What can be done for those that want to sign it?

  • Lorinda Winter says:

    Good it’s high time somebody spoke out about the appalling conditions and rampant corruption by the hospital administrators (all ANC cadres) who have not the faintest clue about how a hospital should be run.

  • Rg Bolleurs says:

    Yay, at last some pushback from the front lines. Now let business find its voice, and mining, and civil society, and let’s throw this rotten government out.

  • Steve Spottiswoode says:

    Thank you to the ore than 130 senior health professionals for sticking your necks out.

  • Simon D says:

    Thank you to every single “I am” signatory. Sometimes the greatest actions can come from the smallest actions, lets hope this shows the ANC cadres you’re actually so much more valuable than them, the underskilled, arrogant, zero value-adding political nothings.

  • Penny Sawyer says:

    Mr Phaala and Mr Mahkura May your level of integrity be so that it shall allow you to feel dam ashamed. Your movement ?
    I am not

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