There has been a long and intensified mass struggle to force the Department of Health and Smartpurse to take the CHWs struggle seriously. On 8 November 2016, the Gauteng Community Health Care Forum (the Forum) decided to take the struggle to the Gauteng Legislature by organising a march. The march received attention from the Legislature as the demands of Gauteng CHWs were raised and debated at the Gauteng Legislature by various political parties. The speaker of the Gauteng Legislature, Ntombi Mekgwe took up the demands of CHWs and began to meet formally with the Forum. The meetings were constituted by the Forum, the Speaker, the Chairperson of the Health Portfolio Commitee Nompi Nhlapo, Chairperson of Petitions Committee Refilwe Mogale and sometimes the former MEC Qedani Mahlangu as well.
On 28 February 2017, a meeting was held, in which the office of the Speaker proposed that Gauteng CHWs drop the ongoing arbitration case at the Public Health and Social Development Bargaining Council, which the Department continues to try and stall. The Forum representatives were offered an ultimatum proposal to either drop the case at the Bargaining Council, after which the Gauteng Legislature would fast track the solving of CHWs issues; or continue with the arbitration case, which would “disturb” the help from the Gauteng Legislature resulting in the struggle taking longer. In response, the Forum reps explained that they needed to take it back to their members and come to a decision collectively.
On 4 March 2017, the Forum held a committee and monitors meeting at the House of Movements in Johannesburg, attended by 54 CHWs representing different clinics across Gauteng. The proposal by the Gauteng Legislature was raised and discussed and it became clear after a few comments and suggestions that the CHWs were against the proposal of dropping the arbitration case. Nontobeko Majola, a member of the Forum said, “Why now? They could have raised this way before. We do not trust them, they are making false promises. These are just delaying tactics… the Forum should continue with the arbitration.” These sentiments were shared by all CHWs in the meeting, who expressed and agreed with the view that they should continue with the arbitration.
It was then decided that a letter will be drafted and sent to the new MEC of Health in Gauteng, Gwen Ramokgopa, requesting a meeting with the new MEC. The aim of the meeting is to respond to the proposal made by the office of the speaker, resolve the crisis left by the former MEC, and discuss issues around CHWs that have not signed with Smartpurse, outstanding salaries of CHWs and the renewal of contracts at the end of March 2017.
On 14 March 2017, Forum reps met with the office of the Speaker to convey their decision to move ahead with the arbitration case. The Speaker’s Office responded that they could not help Gauteng CHWs anymore, and would have to resume dealings with the Forum only after the arbitration is settled.