/ 28 January 2016

Letters to the editor: January 29 to February 4 2016

Letters To The Editor: January 29 To February 4 2016

Get real, Motsoaledi

I firmly disagree with what Minister Aaron Motsoaledi stands for in the article Motsoaledi strikes back at NHI critics. Public healthcare professionals currently don’t get the support they need from the health department and now they want us to believe that the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme is the future?

Our state hospitals cannot cope under the pressure of the millions who are in need of good medical health care.

It is already seen in developed countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, that schemes similar to the NHI are difficult to access. If such a scheme is introduced in a developing country like South Africa, not only will private medical services increase their fees to accommodate the anticipated incompetent public health system, it will also lead to private hospitals packing up to leave and invest their capital and expertise elsewhere. Not to forget that if the scheme is implemented and fails, the cost burden, bad political decisions and years of mismanagement will be a burden for the barely surviving middle class.

We cannot sound like optimists in South Africa, where economic downfall and corruption prevails. The NHI seems like a near-impossible fight against the strong currents of South Africa’s situation.

And as it is said in the article, taxes and VAT will increase, thus allowing inflation to affect everything. The poor will only get poorer.

Nevertheless, the more important picture is missed. We should have access to an improved quality of healthcare rather than making it free for everyone.

For example, we should preferably be focusing on how the government can make medical aid schemes affordable.

It is easy to accept the NHI proposal to make healthcare affordable, efficient and effective but we need to think about all of the setbacks that come with the implication of an almost too good to be true system that isn’t even addressed in the white paper.

Does Motsoaledi’s department really expect the private sector to believe that the same quality of healthcare can be available to all?

South Africans cannot be divided by the lowest common denominator. – Simran Patel, grade 11, St Martin’s High School, Johannesburg

No political will and victimhood erode rights

The Serjeant at the Bar piece Constitution lays the path to equality panders to victimhood and fails to spell out adequately the vision of the Constitution for the future of South Africa.

A society in which human dignity is entrenched, the achievement of equality is given priority and the enjoyment of the various freedoms guaranteed to all in the Bill of Rights is realised is surely one worthy of aspiring to in South Africa.

To get there, the state is legally supposed to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights. The state does not do so, on a worryingly wide scale. This failure is especially severe with regard to basic education (without which the poverty trap is inescapable), housing (vital to a life with dignity) and healthcare. Widespread dysfunction in security services, parastatals and the public administration means that too many poorer compatriots are left feeling unsafe, in the dark, inadequately housed and usually unattended to by the state.

Germany rose from the ashes of World War II to become the most prominent member of the European Union; Japan, the only country on which two atomic bombs were dropped, recovered from these devastating attacks to become a leading country in Asia.

Although South Africa bears many scars of its (arguably less devastating) history, our scars too can be overcome by implementing, with vigour and focused political will, the correct mind-set: that of the Constitution. It clearly prescribes “disadvantage” as the sole criterion for affirmative action measures. The insistence of the legislature, the executive and, lamentably so, the judiciary on regarding “race” (in our supposedly nonracial dispensation) as a criterion for affirmation tends only to scratch open the scars of our collective past by creating a new class of racially identified beneficiaries of affirmative action drawn from the well-connected ranks of those least disadvantaged by unfair discrimination in the past. The poor, those most deleteriously affected by our devastating history, are not assisted in the way contemplated by the proper implementation of the promises of the Bill of Rights. Basic education, access to housing and healthcare for all are promised in the Constitution.

Until they are delivered properly to all, the reconstructed identity of South Africa, which puts human dignity, equality and freedom at the top of the national agenda in section 1 of the Constitution, will remain “too optimistic a vision” (as the Serjeant puts it). Proper implementation of the Bill of Rights and the sustainable development goals of the United Nations are eminently doable in South Africa – generation of the necessary political will to do so is the missing ingredient.

Wallowing in victimhood did not help Germany or Japan recover from the scars of history. It won’t help South Africa either. – Paul Hoffman SC, director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa

Policy failure undermines social cohesion

Social cohesion: What does this term really mean? It’s just another empty concept like “born free”.

Social cohesion, if it exists, must surely be at two levels:

1. That people accept and obey the laws of the land. The Constitution and derived laws form such a basis – in other words, agreement on how our affairs are to be run. We must have effective law enforcement with a popular backing.

2. Unite at the eating pot – meaning that the wealth of the country is accessible to everyone on an equitable basis. That way, everyone unites in seeing the country patriotically as a mother who sustains all.

These two points are a single package. We are reasonably good on point 1. On point 2, we’re a dismal failure and dilly-dallying and excuses are the order of the day. In other words, we haven’t slipped up; it’s policy that has failed us. Thus most calls for social cohesion are dead in the water, totally misguided. – Masitha Hoeane