‘Shock, disbelief’: Zimbabwe embassy reacts to Phophi Ramathuba video

  • The Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria has contacted the South African government to convey concerns on the comments made by Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba.
  • In a widely circulated video, Ramathuba is heard telling a patient that migrants are a strain on the province’s health system.
  • The embassy says it watched the video with “shock and disbelief”. 

The Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria says it has watched with “shock and disbelief” a video in which Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba confronted a Zimbabwean patient at a Bela Bela hospital.

In a statement on 26 August, the embassy said it had “conveyed the concerns of the government of Zimbabwe on the comments made by the MEC” to the South African government through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco).

Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela told News24: “A Note verbale [has been] received.  The matter is being handled through diplomatic channels.”

In a widely circulated video, Ramathuba can be heard telling a patient that migrants from Zimbabwe are a strain on the province’s health system.

She also told the patient South Africa was not running a charity organisation.

READ | ‘This is not political’: Ramathuba says foreigners not budgeted for as she doubles down on comments

Speaking to News24 last week, Ramathuba said the patient was “abusing the system”.

“We have created a healthcare system for the people of Limpopo and the people who voted for us. I have a crisis backlog in the surgical system.

“We are not achieving in delivering healthcare because there are people coming from outside. It’s not her alone. The doctors will never turn a patient away.”

She added Limpopo had 5.4 million people who relied on healthcare services, saying foreign nationals were not part of this number.

“I am given a budget, and you are not budgeted for.”

Ramathuba said the province’s health budget was R22 billion, and 76% went to salaries, adding the budget was cut by R3 billion last year.

READ | FACT CHECK: No, MEC Ramathuba, poor management is killing Limpopo hospitals – not immigrants

But according to a News24 fact check, data from the Limpopo health department showed it was not foreign nationals who were “killing” the health system. Mounting medico-legal claims, lack of consequence management, irregular expenditure and shocking vacancy rates were to blame for the limited resources.

Meanwhile, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union said the problems the Limpopo public health system faced could not be blamed on Zimbabweans seeking treatment in the province.

Trade union Hospersa has called on Ramathuba to apologise for her treatment of the patient.