The civil rights organisation AfriForum expressed its discontent with the process of the public hearings on the National Health Insurance Bill (NHI) and will also obtain legal advice regarding the procedural unfairness of the process thus far. The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health held these hearings from 25 to 28 October 2019 in Mpumalanga, however, various procedural problems occurred.
The hearings are supposed to be objective to garner the community’s true sentiment regarding NHI. AfriForum representatives who attended the hearings in Mpumalanga, however noted various irregularities. These include:
- Pamphlets (printed in Zulu only) reflecting the ANC’s perspective of the NHI were laid out on the chairs in the venues.
- The venue for the hearing in Secunda was moved to Ermelo on the same day, without this change being communicated in any way (AfriForum fortunately found out about the change in venue).
- Monday evening’s meeting (28 October) concluded an hour and a half before the scheduled time when the committee indicated that they had to return to Johannesburg to prepare for the hearings in the Northern Cape. This led to AfriForum not receiving a turn to speak.
- Proceedings only took place in Zulu and there were no translators available.
- Large towns were excluded from the process and from the public hearings – this also excluded the biggest portion of taxpayers in the province, who will be expected to help fund NHI.
- It was clear that the venues that were chosen for these public hearings, were mostly located within wards where the ruling party has the majority of support.
- It appears that very little to no marketing had been done to inform the public of these public hearings.
According to Natasha Venter, AfriForum’s Spokesperson for National Health Insurance, it seems that the process, which is supposed to get the public’s input, has been manipulated from the start in order to reach an outcome that will promote NHI.
“This process is not the place for the ANC to drive its pro-NHI agenda or to distribute propaganda to the public. The pamphlets that the committee distributed to the public only contain the government’s false promises that the NHI is the answer to the country’s health problems. It, however, doesn’t mention the massive shortcomings of this proposed system, or the fact that it will be unaffordable,” says Venter.
AfriForum will attend the public hearings from 1 to 4 November 2019 in the Northern Cape and plans to also attend the hearings in other provinces – of which information have not yet been made public.
AfriForum is also hosting community meetings in the Northern Cape to make the community aware of the dangers that NHI pose and to encourage people to attend the public hearings.