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08 February 2017


The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) is calling upon President Jacob Zuma to give adequate attention to the various failures in the public service when delivering his annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday.  The Union shares its hopes that the President will address the core problems surrounding public health, education and service delivery at local government level.  Hospersa holds that in most cases structural problems are exacerbated by poor management and corruption, having the resultant effect of low levels of service delivery and civil unrest.


One of the first facets of public service in dire need of attention is that of public health care.  Health is one of the most basic and crucial services to be provided by the state, and in our country it is estimated that more than 85% of the population are dependent on public health facilities.  Still, the conditions and capacity at most public health institutions are often found wanting, while the combined effect of poor decision-making and corruption only exacerbates the structural challenges even more.  Many doctors, nurses and other health workers are expected to work in unsafe and often dangerous conditions, and the general overload and lacking facilities lead to levels of low service delivery which often borders on a violation of basic human rights. 


“To say that public health care is in a state of crisis is no exaggeration,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines.  “Hospersa continuously receives reports from our members regarding the horrendous working conditions they face on a daily basis.  This, coupled with rumours of corruption and lacking management systems and controls, makes the public health environment truly toxic in the very sense of the word.  While our government is playing with new policies and paper-based proposals like the NHI [National Health Insurance], they fail to make the basic things work for our people,” he said.  “Hospersa is on record as being in support of the NHI as an ideal, but it is important that our public health institutions first reach a level of basic functionality before such a system can ever be successful in South Africa,” warned Desfontaines.


Also of great importance is the issue of education.  The training and education services provided by government are key to both human and economic development.  It is a well-known fact that public schools and the basic education functions of government are falling short of the basic minimum standards. 


The 2016 national senior certificate examinations saw a shocking total of 18 schools having a 0% pass rate.  Even though there was a marginal improvement in the overall pass rate for the country, calls are coming from various sectors including higher education that standards are falling to levels lower than ever before.  Through poor decision-making and general corrupt procurement processes, the state is failing to provide for the basic needs of school children, including competent and trained teaching staff, textbooks and stationery, safety and security at school, and in some cases government cannot even see after basic needs like chairs and desks for classrooms and clean and functioning ablution facilities.


“Last year President Zuma promised greater investment in maths and science education, yet credible studies show we are still one of the worst performers when it comes to education.  We wish that he [President Zuma] will tell us how his government is ensuring that education can truly be a ladder out of poverty for millions of our people,” said Desfontaines.


One of the other burning issues in our country is that of local government.  It is often said that local government is “where the rubber hits the road” as it is the coalface of service delivery from the state to its citizens.  Many cities and towns are experiencing challenges with basic services like electricity, water and refuse removal.  Again, the combined effect of poor management and lacking oversight combine with corrupt procurement processes to create a vicious cycle of which the working man and woman must bear the brunt.


“The scenes of burning schools, burning buses, burning buildings and burning tyres have become too common in our country.  It is ironic that in a democratic country, its citizens need to set things alight in order to get attention from the government they voted into power,” said Desfontaines.  “We would like to hear plans from the President on how to address the various problems faced at the level of local government, so that officials can be held accountable and our people can get the services they deserve,” Desfontaines concluded.



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For interviews please contact Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines – 083-321-4427.


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