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Feisty Ramathuba’s appointment spells trouble for Zim authorities




THE election of South Africa’s member of the executive council for Health in Limpopo province, Phophi Ramathuba, as the new premier of the region is a wake-up call for Zimbabwe to take responsibility, attend to public amenities and not shift socio-economic burdens to neighbouring countries, political analyst Rashweat Mukundu says.

Dr Ramathuba shot into the limelight after taking a swipe at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s governance failures. She complained that the Zimbabwean authorities were burdening South Africa’s health delivery system.

On 14 June, Ramathuba was elected the first female premier of Limpopo after her party, the African National Congress (ANC), won a majority of the seats in the provincial legislature.

In 2022, Ramathuba was the centre of attention after she highlighted that Mnangagwa’s governance failures were straining her country’s health delivery system, whose resources are insufficient to cater for undocumented foreigners.

Zimbabweans have been flocking to South Africa for better healthcare services following the deterioration of this country’s health sector, with Limpopo province being the nearest port of call.

In August 2022, while on a tour of Bela Bela Hospital in Limpopo, Ramathuba had an outburst at a Zimbabwean patient who had been involved in an accident in Harare, but had crossed the border for a surgical operation.

Upon learning that she was a Shona-speaking patient, Ramathuba seethed with anger, accusing her of being one of the Zimbabweans who were burdening South Africa’s public hospitals due to Mnangagwa’s governance failures.

Reacting to her election as the premier of Limpopo, analyst Mukundu told The NewsHawks that Ramathuba’s election is a wake-up call for the Zimbabwean government to prioritise the revamping of social amenities.

“I think Ramathuba will remain loyal on her previous views that political failures in Zimbabwe are causing a social crisis in South Africa with Limpopo having to deal with an influx of Zimbabweans seeking economic opportunities and medical help thereby causing pressure on the South African health systems especially provinces closer to the Zimbabwean border,” Mukundu said.

“So I do not foresee her changing that stance. And she may actually come out to be hardened, especially post this election that ANC has not done so well. So, South Africans have voted essentially on local issues. They have not looked at global political issues, and they have not looked at ideological issues.”

Mukundu said her position is also complicated as South Africans have been mainly voting for improved public service and better access to social amenities.  

“South Africans have voted with their stomachs, and their feet in terms of infrastructure, they have voted with their concerns on public service and, for me, what we may see from the new premier is a more hardened stance on Zimbabweans because the ANC has to demonstrate a new approach,” he said.

“It has to demonstrate a new capacity to deliver and this means that there will be closer scrutiny to resource allocation, and that may in a way affect Zimbabweans seeking assistance in South Africa. What we will likely see I think is a hardened position by the premier, but equally a hardened position by South Africans who again will not be governing alone, but are now part of this coalition.”

Mukundu said Ramathuba’s election is also bad news for the Zanu PF government, which has been getting support from the ANC despite heavy flaws.

“What this also means is that the ANC cannot also push its own fraternal relations to protect Zanu PF from criticism. So we are likely to see a Ramathuba that is likely to be galvanised and willing to go more on the offensive because the ANC is on the back foot and it has to demonstrate that it has the capacity to deliver,” he said.

“So, this does not bond well for Zimbabweans. But most importantly, I think it is a message to our leaders in Zimbabwe that they need to focus on the wellbeing of their own people rather than delegating Zimbabweans to neighbouring countries like Zambia, South Africa and Botswana as we have seen. It means that our government must focus on public service, health and other economic issues that benefit its own citizens.”

More officials in South Africa’s Limpopo province have been expressing concern over the effect of Zimbabwe’s political failure on the country, with mayor of Musina Municipality Nkhanedzeni Godfrey Mawela, last year complaining that the town has seen little benefit despite it being a major trading point, with illegal immigrants putting pressure on amenities.

The town is also a major trading point for Zimbabwean informal traders.

“As a municipality we can say that we are strategically located, but currently given the illegal activity, we are not benefitting anything. Actually, we see it as a burden because the flow of foreign nationals is a burden to the municipality,” Mawela said in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

“They (migrants) do spend money on this side. What we are talking about as a burden is that we budget money here for the local people. But when these illegal foreign nationals come without our knowledge, they use the same infrastructure and the budget that we would have set aside for our almost 100 000 people.”

He said the town’s health facilities have also been largely filled by foreign nationals seeking medication in the border town.  

“We are a municipality that is struggling with water and a number of service delivery issues. So the uncontrolled flow of foreign nationals becomes a burden. We are happy that the government, even the President himself, is taking this thing seriously to consider giving support to the municipality, to give service to our people including the foreign nationals,” he said.

“We have a hospital here. If you go to Musina Hospital, they will tell you they receive foreign nationals almost every now and then. Actually the hospital is home to foreign nationals who are coming here now and again. Look, they are using the medication and everything that is meant for our people here. It ends up servicing foreign nationals who are coming illegally. We want the national government to be coming to help us solve the situation.”

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