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South African Health MEC Under Fire After Rant About Migrants Goes Viral

Dr. Phophi Ramathuba is receiving massive backlash for her recent controversial comments about Zimbabweans.

Limpopo Health MEC Dr. Phophi Ramathuba is under fire after a video of her ranting about migrants from Zimbabwe went viral.

The video shows the medical professional telling a Zimbabwean woman that migrants from Zimbabwe are becoming a big inconvenience on South Africa's healthcare system. In the video, Ramathuba address the woman who is lying in bed and tells her that migrants who are benefitting from South Africa's healthcare provisions are putting a "huge strain" on the provincial health department. She also goes further to point out that the Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa doesn't pay her department for Zimbabweans to get health care. In a part of the clip, she can be heard saying: "Mnangagwa doesn’t give me money to operate? You are killing my health system. When you guys are sick, I’m hearing these days you just say, 'Let’s cross the Limpopo River, there's a MEC there that’s running a charity department'."

As soon as the polarizing video became a sensation on social media, people shared their opinions on the matter, with some saying that Ramathuba was allowed to speak about the issue, and others saying that the comments were unwarranted.

On Wednesday morning, Ramathuba spoke to News24 to explain her comments and offer some insight on what she meant. She also said that the video was misinterpreted by viewers.

"Let me first indicate, unfortunately, the clip is misinterpreted. But people who follow the work we do as a province understand it’s nothing to do with being anti-illegal," said Ramathuba.

In an interview with SABC News, she further explained her comments.

"South Africa has got a constitution, and section 27 is very clear, that we shall never deny anyone emergency healthcare services, and as a province, including myself, we stick by that. On a daily basis, we are admitting foreign nationals, illegal or legal to receive healthcare services, and we have never been complaining about that," said Ramathuba.

Ramathuba went on to say that her rural province was under-resourced, and had a lot of backlog for surgical procedures, and this was limiting the access that Limpopo residents had to healthcare.

A spokesperson for The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Clayson Monyela said Ramathuba’s viral comments were not considered a diplomatic incident.

"If Zimbabwe was to raise the incident through diplomatic channels, only then would Dirco become involved. So far, it’s not a diplomatic incident. It has not been elevated," said Monyela.

After the video went viral, Arundel Hospital, which is located in Harare, offered to pay the medical bill for the women, urging people to "contact them."

Collage by Ta'Ron Joyner

COVID 19: To Recover, We Must Rebuild Our Fractured Society

'The coronavirus crashed head-on with our crisis of toxic loneliness. We need a systemic solution,' writes Zama Ndlovu.

This essay is part of OkayAfrica's SA Reframed series, featuring personal writing from some of South Africa's best young writers edited by Verashni Pillay.

About five weeks into lockdown, I found myself feeling socially dislocated and emotionally distressed. I did not understand the source of my discomfort. After all, I have lived alone for most of my post-graduate years, so physical distancing was not a significant change. I have mostly lived in solitude; I have sometimes lived in loneliness. Sometimes, the dark clouds gather, leaving me feeling as though life is contracting around me. In those times, I am empty and wholly disempowered as though I have lost my life, though I have not died.

Knowing the devastating costs of isolation intimately, I set about implementing a supportive structure of weekly video call check-ins with friends and family to make sure that I could feel connected during the lockdown period. Having taken so much care, I could not understand the incessant feeling of dislocation.

Every human being needs strong social bonds to thrive. We need to know that we belong somewhere and that we have supportive relationships to lean on when we face challenges. These social bonds help us to be more resilient and adaptable during times of hardship.

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