On 5 July 2018, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), together with the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) convened a national dialogue resulting in the Braamfontein Statement, on the impact of the protest and industrial action on the right to access health services in South Africa. This dialogue emerged following requests from civil society and RHAP in particular, to assess the impact of the industrial action in the health sector in the North West province during April and May this year.
Labour, Health and civil society were duly represented across many sectors and disciplines with the lone missing voice being the NEHAWU NW provincial and national leadership. The dialogue would have been an opportune moment for the leadership to provide insights and responses to the myriad questions raised at the dialogue. In his opening comments at the dialogue, the chairperson of the SAHRC, Advocate Bongani Majola set the tone for the day by stating categorically that “the exercise of one right should not limit the exercise of other rights”.
During the strike action, which resulted in many facilities being closed down and this impacted on communities’ ability to access health services, RHAP was following the activities closely on the ground through our partner organisation, the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa (RuDASA) and other concerned healthcare workers. Several communication pieces emanated during that period including the Open Letter from over 70 doctors in the North West demanding that facilities be opened and our letter to the SAHRC requesting urgent intervention into the escalating health crisis. In addition, RHAP wrote a joint statement with the doctors in the North West to the Task Team, requesting timely intervention. It became apparent that a strike of this nature and magnitude is not beneficial to any community and should not recur.
The Dialogue was an opportunity to bring voices together, discuss what will work best during protest action and more importantly, assess what a positive, successful strike or protest action will look like with all stakeholders rights’ promoted and protected.
The Ministerial Task Team is working feverishly in the province to rectify past administrative errors and ensure that the province is in good standing. However, one of the overwhelming themes to emerge from the dialogue was the lack of communication between stakeholders and that this requires urgent remedy. It became evident that there could be no meeting of the minds without sound communication.
The Dialogue resolved to have many more such dialogues including one in the North West, which was the principal reason for this dialogue.
The stakeholders at the dialogue resolved to commit to the following:
- Affirm the right to protest at health care facilities;
- Affirm the right of access to health care;
- Commit to exploring how protest action at healthcare facilities can protect and develop healthcare rights;
- Further commit to a continuing process which will include engagement at the highest and the lowest levels of the public health sector; and
- Support the formalisation of a Minimum Service Level Agreement for the sector.
For more information please contact:
Manager: Knowledge Management
Rural Health Advocacy Project
Tel: 083 3788 120