Though not the end of this struggle, a victory was won at Arbitration hearings that took place on 18 and 19 September 2017 at the House of Movements, Johannesburg. According to the press statement issued by Gauteng Community Health Care Forum (the Forum), “the second day of the arbitration case between CHWs in Gauteng and the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) with SmartPurse Solutions over the employment status of CHWs ended with the GDoH and Smartpurse attorneys admitting to the hard facts that their clients have no case against the CHWs and asked for a settlement”. After deliberations between the Forum’s representatives, and the lawyers, the parties agreed that the Arbitration will stand down until the negotiations concluded. If these negotiations were unsuccessful, the Arbitration process would then resume, and the Arbitrator would hear all arguments and make a final ruling on the case. The Arbitrator made this a ruling to solidify the agreement, and a date of 9 October 2017 was set as the day the Department and its lawyers were supposed to meet with the Forum CHWs and its legal representatives to discuss the settlement offer.
The Forum ran a campaign that started after the arbitration hearing in preparation for the negotiations meeting, under the hashtag #CHWsArePermanent. The campaign saw the Forum distribute flyers; and visit clinics in the various regions of Gauteng. The Forum also launched its own ‘Forum TV News Bulletins’. As has been the case in dealings with the DoH, the Department informed the Forum in the days before the meeting date that they were experiencing delays in putting together a settlement offer and when 9 October arrived, did not pitch for the meeting. Despite this, the Forum’s mass rally to reportback to CHWs in Gauteng went ahead as planned on 10 October. The Forum informed Gauteng carers about the recent developments and held a discussion to find a way forward. A resolution was taken to break up into 3 groups and go to the various government offices to demand answers. One group went to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature; another to the Department of Health and the third group went to provide support to the affected families attending an arbitration of the Life Esidimeni scandal. Later in the afternoon, reports about the meetings with the offices and the arbitration were heard. The first and third group were unsuccessful as official declined to comment on CHWs concerns. The second report from the Gauteng Provincial Legislature informed the Carers that the Speaker was not on site. A meeting was then scheduled for the next morning but still no real answers were offered. Zoleka Mbotshwa, Chairperson of the Forum said these developments has left them with no option but to go back to arbitration and continue to mobilise other healthcare workers until the Department concedes to their demands.