Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba confronted a Zimbabwean patient at a Bela-Bela hospital telling her that South Africa does not have the budget to accommodate foreign nationals.
Ramathuba told the woman that she should get treatment in Zimbabwe. She said in a video circulating on social media:
How do you find yourself in Bela-Bela when you are supposed to be with Mnangagwa (Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa) there? You know he doesn’t give me money to operate you guys and I’m operating you with my limited budget.
The patient responds by saying she appreciates it, but the MEC added that her department’s budget constraints are further exacerbated by the fact that Zimbabwean nationals in the country also depend on government services/facilities. She added:
When you guys are sick, I’m hearing these days you just say, ‘let’s cross Limpopo river, there is an MEC there who is running a charity department. It’s not.
There are estimated to be between 800 000 and 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa. Zimbabweans migrated to the neighbouring country following the collapse of the economy two decades ago. The decline was mainly attributed to corruption by political elites.
Economic challenges in South Africa have, however, in recent years triggered tensions between local citizens and foreign nationals with the latter being accused of taking away public goods and services meant for local citizens.
Ramathuba’s remarks come as thousands of Zimbabweans are set to be deported at the end of this year following the termination of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits that allowed them to reside, work and learn in South Africa.