A South African public interest law organisation, SECTION27, has launched an application in the Gauteng High Court to stop discriminatory practices that deny immigrant women and their children state health care.
SECTION27 approached the court after several immigrants and undocumented women and children were denied access to free healthcare in South Africa over the past few years.
In December 2019, two-year-old Sibusiso Ncube died of poisoning after he was refused treatment at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.
Sibusiso’s Zimbabwean mother had failed to instantly produce the child’s birth certificate or pay R5000, according to an affidavit in the court case.
Umunyana Rugege, executive director of SECTION27, said the case of Sibusiso Ncube was not an isolated incident. Said Rugege:
Since 2013, SECTION27 has been repeatedly approached by pregnant migrant women and children under six, who have been denied access to free health services.
This is perpetuated through discriminatory subordinate laws and practices.
They have routinely been denied access to health care services, or they are pressured into signing acknowledgements of debt and undertakings to pay for services.
SECTION27 is seeking an order that compels the Minister of Health to issue a circular to all provincial health departments recording that all pregnant or lactating women, and children under six, who are not members of medical aid schemes and who have not come to South Africa to obtain health care, be entitled to free health services at all public health institutions.
The application is supported by the Jesuit Refugee Service, The Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, and Doctors Without Borders; all are expected to file affidavits soon.
The respondents — the MEC and Gauteng health department head, the Minister and Director-General of Health — have 15 days to file notices of opposition.