Khanya College together with the Gauteng Community Health Care Forum Office Bearers (Obs) held a Bosberaad at KwaThabisile Lodge (outside of Pretoria), on 22-23 April 2022. The goal of the bosberaad was to strengthen the relationship between the Forum and Khanya College and to begin to think about methods of rebuilding the Gauteng Forum.
One of the Forum goals in to be independent and to be an organisation that is different to how unions operate. The Gauteng Forum’s mandate is to improve the quality of health of the community, and to help CHWs with the struggles they face.
At the bosberaad, the Gauteng Forum’s OBs shared the short and long-term goals of the Forum with new staff of Khanya. The short-term goal was to work for the Department of Health as permanent employees with benefits. Some of the long-term goals include that the Gauteng Forum wants to have its own media of radio, etc because the mainstream media is captured and biased. The Gauteng Forum also intends to have its own public health care facility. The healthcare facility’s responsibilities would include ensuring that working class communities, but especially women and children receive the best possible healthcare and treatment.
Zanele Nomdikinya, the Chairperson of the Gauteng Forum said; “we are planning on rebuilding the [Gauteng] Forum… Our goal was to be permanent with government benefits which was successful… CHWs in Gauteng are permanent [because of the struggles of] the Forum. [Now] we are striving to make all CHWs in South Africa permanent as part a national case against the Department of Health.”
Nomdikinya added that “the unions are biased and sitting at the same table with the Department. The Forum does not include managers and Department officials in its Forum committees”. To her, involving the health management and the department officials in the struggles of CHWs is like eating at the same table with the enemy, as the Department holds what the CHWs want.
In terms of the national case to make all CHWs in South Africa permanent, Khanya has assisted the Forum to collect the necessary documents from as many CHWs as possible in the North West and Mpumalanga provinces. But the process of the case is still ongoing and some provinces are still busy collecting the necessary documents.
The Gauteng Forum has been working with CHWs in other provinces in South Africa, with the aim of assisting them to set up their own Forum that will fight for the community’s healthcare and for CHWs’ rights.
The forum also faces obstacles, including a decrease in membership. When the Gauteng Forum was formed it hoped to organise CHWs in 200 clinics but by 20only managed to organise 121 clinics with members, and now the number has plummeted dramatically to less than 40 clinics. The Gauteng Forum wants to win the CHWs back and must reclaim members who have joined unions.
The other issue facing CHWs, is that after they were made permanent, they were told they cannot talk publicly the Department and what it does.
At the bosberaad, Khanya and the Gauteng Forum started making plans to rebuild through clinic visits, as well as to conduct Siyahlolas (recruiting campaigns). The OBs will be visiting clinics that it already has members in to recruit more CHWs.
CHWs work hard to improve the lives of the communities they work in, but their work is not recognised. Sadly, the Department of Health has not appreciated their effort to develop the communities.
This article was submitted on 8 June 2022. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.