Dr Phophi Constance Ramathuba, MEC for Health of the Limpopo province has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct by HPCSA for Xenophobic Statements

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For media inquiries, please contact: Nigel Branken Email: nigel@transforming.org.za Cell: 062 546 9913 Sharon Ekambaram Email: Sharone@lhr.org.za Cell: 0836348924

Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia (KAAX) welcomes the recent decision by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to find Dr Phophi Constance Ramathuba, the MEC for Health for the Limpopo province and a medical doctor, guilty of unprofessional conduct.

KAAX, along with several human rights and health advocacy organisations, including Lawyers for Human Rights, Neighbours NPO, Treatment Action Campaign, Section 27, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, Progressive Health Forum, and the Helen Suzman Foundation, laid a complaint with the HPCSA against Dr Ramathuba. We are pleased to see that our collective efforts have led to this outcome.

As organisations dedicated to fighting against xenophobia and discrimination, we strongly condemn Dr Ramathuba’s xenophobic statements and actions. We believe that regardless of nationality or legal status, every person has the right to access quality health care without fear of discrimination or mistreatment.

Dr Ramathuba’s actions were not only unprofessional but also harmful to the health and well-being of vulnerable patients. Her statements were a call to medical professionals not to respect the Constitution and Bill of Rights and opposed the right to medical care for foreign nationals.

We also want to highlight the untruthful nature of Dr Ramathuba’s comments, as they were not only disrespectful and harmful but also factually incorrect. Her claim that foreign nationals and undocumented migrants are not catered for in her budget allocation and are overburdening the healthcare system has been repeatedly debunked by fact-checkers.

Dr Ramathuba and all South Africans need to be reminded that our laws regarding medical care for foreign nationals are clear and comprehensive. Primary healthcare services are free for all, while emergency care is free at the point of use for everyone. Pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, and children under six years old are entitled to free services at all levels of the public health system. However, higher levels of care, including those beyond primary healthcare, require a means-tested co-payment for all individuals, with different classifications based on the level of care required. Tourists and those on visitor visas are classified as foreign and fully fee-paying, while documented refugees and asylum seekers are means-tested in the same way as South African citizens. Permanent and temporary residents, as well as undocumented SADC nationals, are also subject to the same means-testing as citizens when accessing higher levels of care.

It is important to note that Dr. Ramathuba’s scapegoating of foreign nationals for poor service delivery in the Limpopo province is not only xenophobic, but it also serves to distract from the real causes of the problem: poor management systems, misconduct of department officials, negligence and endemic corruption. Indeed, the Auditor General’s release of a qualified audit report for that same department, demonstrated widespread mismanagement and corruption in the weeks prior to the MEC’s statements which adds further concern that the statements were intentionally made to distract the public from the report.

Blaming foreign nationals for the shortcomings of the department is a textbook example of scapegoating and does not address the underlying issues. It is essential that the government and the public focus on holding officials accountable for their actions and improving the systems and structures that enable corruption to thrive. KAAX calls for a concerted effort to tackle the root causes of poor service delivery in Limpopo province and across South Africa, rather than engaging in divisive and harmful rhetoric targeting the most vulnerable in society, that only serves to worsen the situation.

Dr Ramathuba’s statements and other similar statements by public officials have a direct connection to the xenophobic and inhumane actions which have taken place outside clinics in Hillbrow, Yeoville, Orange Grove and other parts of the country, resulting in foreign nationals often being denied medical attention and being traumatised when seeking health care.

While we commend the HPCSA for finding Dr. Ramathuba guilty of unprofessional conduct,as concerned citizens, we demand more significant consequences to ensure that such unprofessional conduct and xenophobic behaviour are never repeated. We urge the HPCSA to take further action and to ensure that medical professionals and government officials who abuse their power and use xenophobic statements are held fully accountable for their actions.

KAAX remains committed to working towards building a more inclusive and equitable society, where all individuals have equal access to quality health care and are treated with dignity and respect. We call on all South Africans to stand up against discrimination and to work towards creating a more welcoming and supportive environment for all.

Media Resources

Our Original Complaint

The decision of the HPCSA

Number of Foreign Nationals in South Africa
Stats SA has corrected recent erroneous interpretations and misuse of statistics in relation to the number of undocumented migrants in South Africa. The actual data includes migrants of all types, regardless of legal status and is estimated at 3.95 million persons were identified.


How Equitable Share is Actually Calculated:


The auditor general report is particularly concerning, but overall the report shows:

The department underspent on its budget by R120 million, and there were material misstatements in the annual performance report and financial statements. The department did not take effective steps to prevent irregular expenditure, collect revenue, recover debts, and implement appropriate procurement processes. There were also issues with oversight, compliance monitoring, and the management of leases and procurement for personal protective equipment and waste management services. The department faces billions in medico-legal claims and staff vacancies, and there is a lack of consequence management for irregular expenditure. Despite having billions of allocated funds, the impact on clinics and hospitals is limited due to consistent underspending and deviation of money from critical resources.

This press statement was released by Kopanang African Against Xenophobia on 16 February 2023.

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