As pressure mounts on President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding the National Health Insurance (NHI) plan, his spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, has reassured the public that there is no need to panic.
Magwenya emphasized that Ramaphosa has a constitutional obligation to thoroughly process the NHI Bill before signing it into law.
The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) recently met to discuss the fate of the NHI Bill, but the voting was deferred to 6 December. The bill was introduced to parliament on 8 August 2019 and has already passed through it.
Magwenya acknowledged that concerns have been expressed directly to the president regarding certain aspects of the bill. He stated that Ramaphosa will carefully consider whether there has been sufficient consultation and whether the concerns raised have been adequately addressed.
Magwenya further explained that it is within Ramaphosa’s constitutional authority to send a bill back if he has any reservations about it. He emphasized that the passing of the bill does not signify the conclusion of the process, and the president does not simply sign every bill he receives. Ramaphosa’s signature is the final step in the process.
Many have been skeptical about the speed at which the NHI Bill is progressing, questioning whether it is merely a political move in anticipation of the upcoming elections. As the ANC faces a challenging road to elections next year, the business sector is concerned about the potential collapse of an already struggling healthcare system.
Business Unity South Africa and Business for South Africa recently expressed their concerns to the presiding officers of the NCOP and the deputy president, who serves as the leader of government business in parliament.
They highlighted the lack of due process in the NCOP select committee’s adoption of the bill without any amendments. The organizations argued that the committee failed to address constitutional issues raised by four provinces and various stakeholders, which undermines the principles of participatory democracy.
In addition, a newly formed national group of medical and allied healthcare practitioners’ associations, known as the South African Health Professionals Collaboration (SAHPC), expressed disappointment that the committee did not make any amendments to the NHI Bill.
They echoed the concerns raised by the business sector, emphasizing that the bill does not serve the best interests of patients and will have severe repercussions for the economy.
Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions urged parliament to conclude the passage of the long-delayed bill. The federation criticized the government for succumbing to pressure from business interests, which it believes prioritizes profits over the health of ordinary South Africans.