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Operation Dudula calls off protests at Kalafong hospital after ‘fruitful’ meeting with health minister

Operation Dudula calls off protests at Kalafong hospital after ‘fruitful’ meeting with health minister
A South African Police Service (SAPS) officer removes members of Operation Dudula during a protest against undocumented migrants after a scuffle with members of the Economic Freedom Fighters outside Kalafong hospital in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, on 1 September 1, 2022. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

Operation Dudula has agreed to stop protesting outside the Kalafong Provincial Tertiary Hospital in Pretoria after a meeting with the health minister on Thursday.

‘These groups of people have been blocking access to health facilities, thus causing serious disruptions to the orderly provision of health services to vulnerable, ill people seeking help at our health facilities. These kinds of activities are a violation of the South African Constitution and deprive people of their fundamental rights, and are consequently illegal,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Thursday.

He was speaking during a visit to the Kalafong Provincial Tertiary Hospital in Pretoria where he met the hospital management and the leadership of Operation Dudula.

Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla at Kalafong Provincial Tertiary Hospital in Atteridgeville. (Photo: Screenshot from video)

Since early August, a group of Operation Dudula members had been holding anti-foreigner protests outside the hospital, with reports of patients and staff being intimidated. Operation Dudula had blocked the entrance to the hospital and turned away patients who they believed were undocumented foreign nationals, based on the colour of their skin and the language they speak, GroundUp reported.  

On Friday, 26 August, the Gauteng MEC for Health obtained a court interdict from the Pretoria High Court prohibiting the group from “threatening and denying” patients and employees access to the hospital.  

The interdict was pinned to a noticeboard outside the hospital. However, Dudula was undeterred and on Monday the group resumed protests outside the hospital, demanding to see people’s ID documents, TimesLive reported.

kalafong phaahla

Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla briefs the media on the impact of sporadic protests over access to health services at Kalafong Provincial Tertiary Hospital in Atteridgeville. (Photo: Screenshot from Facebook)

The police were reported to have been a few metres from the hospital, monitoring the situation. In response to questions from Daily Maverick on Wednesday, Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Sello said “the police did attend to the protest action” outside the hospital.  

“On Tuesday, the police accompanied the hospital representatives to serve and read the court interdict to the protesters and the group was dispersed from the hospital. As per the mandate, the police continued to monitor the group that was picketing peacefully outside the hospital yard. No incidents or injuries have been reported,” Sello told Daily Maverick. 

Operation Dudula-EFF violence

On Thursday, a violent scuffle broke out outside the hospital between members of Operation Dudula and members of the EFF, because of their contrasting views on migrants. This was not the first time the two groups have clashed. In July, the two groups clashed at the scene of a Soweto tavern shooting. Before that, the EFF accompanied its former branch secretary Victor Ramerafe to open a criminal complaint against Operation Dudula’s leader, Nhlanhla Lux. 

While the EFF butted heads with Dudula Operatives outside, Phaahla met with the Tshwane leadership of the organisation inside the hospital.  

dudula eff

Members of Operation Dudula sing and chant slogans during their protest against undocumented migrants as they burn EFF flags outside Kalafong hospital. (Photo: Phill Magakoe / AFP)

Following what Phaahla called a “fruitful” meeting with the leadership of Operation Dudula at the hospital on Thursday, the minister said Dudula’s leadership had agreed to stop protesting and would engage in further consultations with the government over the grievances it had raised.  

Phaahla said some of the concerns raised by the group included “pressure on the hospital”, “long queues”, and “allegations of people stealing medicine and corruption”, which Dudula blames on foreign nationals.  

phaahla kalafong health workers

The Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla Minister speaks to health workers during his visit to Kalafong hospital in Atteridgeville. (Photo: Supplied)

“We have agreed that these are matters which are very important and which we can address without any need for picketing and demonstrations. On the basis of that, we have agreed on the process of engagement locally with the hospital management of Kalafong, but also at a provincial level with the leadership of Gauteng health,” said Phaahla. 

Operation Dudula’s national administrator and greater Tshwane regional secretary, Pat Mokgalusi, said Dudula was satisfied with the engagement they had with the minister.  

“We had a very fruitful meeting with the minister and the management of the hospital. We are going to work together from now on, engaging on different issues,” said Mokgalusi.

Health MEC’s xenophobic remarks  

Phaahla’s visit to the hospital followed xenophobic comments by the Limpopo Health MEC, Phophi Ramathuba, whose interaction with a patient in a Bela-Bela hospital on Tuesday, 23 August, went viral on Twitter

Read in Daily Maverick: “Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba’s xenophobic, dehumanising diatribe against Zimbabwean patient

Ramathuba berating a Zimbabwean patient for “using up” the healthcare budget and “crowding” hospitals — despite evidence pointing to other reasons relating to poor governance as to why the Limpopo health budget is in distress — was slammed as a “dehumanising diatribe”. 

New24’s Azarrah Karrim reported that audit reports and official statistics showed “no indications of any significant adverse impact of foreign nationals on the healthcare system in the province, but enough evidence of poor management and weak financial controls contributing to a system in distress”. 

Doctors Without Borders said in a statement that “hostility to serving migrants in South Africa’s health facilities has been intensifying, fuelled by inflammatory and political statements from government officials, including the Limpopo Health MEC”.  

Commenting on Ramathuba’s remarks during his visit to Kalafong Hospital, Phaahla said: “We agree with those who are saying it was inappropriate for the MEC [Ramathuba] to direct her concerns to a patient who was in a vulnerable state and a victim of circumstances.” 

He noted that the “mobilisation” by vigilante groups such as Operation Dudula was associated with the Limpopo Health MEC’s comments. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Xenophobia and cowardly acts against Zimbabweans must be combated by all democrats

However, he added: “Matters which the MEC was raising in terms of the high demand and pressure on our health services beyond what is planned for, put additional pressure on a system which was already fragile for many reasons which are known to many.”

The minister said these reasons included “reduced funding, inefficiency, maladministration, corruption and poor management.

“This is a challenge which can be solved through leadership and political intervention, and we are ready to be held accountable in the improvement of quality of health services for the entire South African population,” he said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Too much Blah blah blah Minister and lots of Cyrilesc dithering could have averted what became a crisis.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    When a state outsources its responsibility to vigilante groups who illegally ask people for identification documents it is a recipe for violence. The fact that the government dignifies their illegal acts with meetings and police simply watch it means that they agree with their conduct and we are heading for a failed state. Nobody has said that illegal immigration must not be dealt with but we have elected political leadership and state institutions to do that in a proper legal manner. When MECs, Ministers and a President declare open season on the issue of migration, when they are in possession of instruments to deal with then we must know that we do not have a government but looters.

    • Graeme de Villiers says:

      Absolutely spot on, Cunningham. Standing idly by does not equte to dealing with an issue.
      Giving these thugs airtime and making such a public spectacle of an effective meeting is openly inviting other vigilante groups to step in. Operation Dudula is an ideology, not a movement and they should not be afforded the time or space to engage with public officials, when actual doctors and medical staff are ignored for so long when they raise real issues that influence peoples’ lives.

  • Wendy Dewberry says:

    Xenophobia ? That’s one word for hatred bourne of fear of people from other heritage. In South Africa its traditionally known as racism.

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