Defiant Ramathuba says Nehawu’s tantrums won’t force her out

Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba says there is no truth in the points raised by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in its bid to get her fired.

Ramathuba’s departmental spokesperson, Neil Shikwambana, dismissed the union’s demands as nothing but “flimsy tantrums”.

Nehawu held a night vigil at premier Stan Mathabatha’s offices on Thursday, calling on him to get rid of Ramathuba.

They accused her of running down the department, hiring young hospital managers who undermined key staff members, failing to fill funded vacancies and protecting people who rigged job interviews.

“We are quite disheartened by the Nehawu tantrums towards the Limpopo department of health because we have actually lost count as to how many times Nehawu has called for the MEC to be removed.

“In fact whenever there are issues, the first thing Nehawu does is to demand that the MEC goes. This is not constructive at all. It points to a union that is being hijacked by people who want to achieve their own nefarious intent.

“Also, the reasons that they are bringing as argument for the removal of the MEC are quite flimsy and based on fabrications,” said Shikwambana.

“They claim the MEC did not protect their shop stewards from being suspended, but those who were suspended attempted to shut down Pietersburg Provincial Hospital.

“That is not the way of doing things. Shop stewards should know better. There are ways in which you can raise issues without closing a healthcare facility.

“If you close down a hospital, you are disrupting the value chain of public healthcare service in the entire hospital. These are the kind of hospitals used by people who have no option; the poorest of the poor,” he said.

Shikwambana further refuted allegations that Ramathuba allowed the department’s managers and directors to underspend funding meant to improve healthcare across Limpopo.

“We don’t understand where they pick these lies up because records are very clear. They can even verify with the Treasury that the Limpopo department of health is one of the best-spending departments in the country when it comes to issues of grant spending.

“For instance, in the previous financial year we managed to spend 98.9% of the entire grant, so what do they mean when they say the department is underspending?

“Nehawu also speaks about what they call the ‘juniorisation’ of management. The public service legislation does not automatically qualify a person who has stayed longest in the system for promotion or senior positions,” he said.

“Nehawu is also making a claim that there is a huge vacancy rate. This cannot be further from the truth because if you look at the pattern in the department, even during Covid-19 where all focus was on dealing with the pandemic, the department has been bringing employees into the sector.

“Although it was on a temporary basis at the time, post Covid the department has brought in new employees. In the previous financial year we have managed to bring over 500 employees into the fold,” Shikwambana said.

He denied claims Ramathuba was running down the department. “The health ombudsman also pointed to the fact that the health MEC in Limpopo and the department of health in Limpopo are among the best-performing MECs and provincial departments in the entire country, respectively.”

On Thursday, Nehawu members descended on the premier’s office in Polokwane after Ramathuba interdicted them against any protests at her offices or any branch of the provincial health department, including hospitals.

Limpopo provincial government spokesperson Ndavhe Ramukuela said they were not informed about the night vigil but relied on law enforcement to manage the situation.

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