Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

COMMENT

Bosasa former chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi, who is accused of corruption and bribery, spent one night in jail last week before being transferred to hospital because his health had allegedly deteriorated.

Agrizzi stands accused of corruption and paying bribes to politicians to secure government contracts and to shield Bosasa from facing scrutiny and accountability. 

The Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court, sitting in Palm Ridge, south of Johannesburg, ruled that Agrizzi was a flight risk after it emerged that he had been building himself a luxury life in Italy. He made deposits of about R24-million in offshore accounts, bought a multimillion-rand house and luxury vehicle in that country. 

Though Agrizzi’s passport is now with law enforcement authorities, this is clearly a man who was sitting on a plan and was probably waiting for the right moment to skip the country. One can guess at how a man without a passport would have been planning to leave the country, considering the charges he is facing. 

Last week, Agrizzi arrived at the court with a portable oxygen pump. Asking for him to be released on bail, his lawyers said he needed the permanent oxygen to help him breathe. 

This week, it emerged that Agrizzi was moved from Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital to a private facility because his health has deteriorated and he needed specialised care. His lawyer told the media on Tuesday that Agrizzi was now unconscious in ICU at the private hospital. 

The department of correctional services says the law provides for an inmate to be moved to a private hospital, at their own cost. 

But this is where it gets tricky — and astonishing. Agrizzi’s lawyer said the treating state doctor indicated that Agrizzi needed ICU or high care facilities urgently as his condition was worsening and that “they didn’t have the facilities to treat him”. 

We can be enraged and have all the opinions about being deprived of the pleasure of seeing Agrizzi wearing orange overalls.

But what should scare the people of South Africa is that the biggest hospital in not only South Africa but all of Africa, and the third-largest in the world, says it does not have facilities to treat a person that needs permanent oxygen or whatever else Agrizzi is sick with.

How is this possible? How does it happen? What, then, of poor prisoners in Sun City, who cannot afford private hospital fees? What does it mean for the thousands, if not millions, of patients who use this hospital to receive care, some even travelling from other provinces? 

Where does this hospital send a sick mkhulu from White City Jabavu in Soweto who suffers from the same illness as Agrizzi? What does Bara tell a young mother who has travelled from Klersdorp in the North West who has a similar illness to what Agrizzi is sick with? 

Are these people left to die because they do not have as much money as Agrizzi? Money he has made by colluding with corrupt politicians and stealing from taxpayers. 

It is quite alarming to learn of this revelation by Bara during a pandemic that attacks the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. How can it be business as usual when we now know that this hospital does not have the right facilities to cater for poor sick people? It does not make sense. It is absurd. 

If indeed what the doctor told Agrizzi’s lawyer and family is true, and is not some cover-up to ensure that he received private care, this is the clearest indication of what corruption does to a country. 

Not that this country has been short of examples. Politicians collude with crooks, state funds are used to enrich greedy politicians and public servants and in the end we are left with a Bara that fails to treat critically ill people. But because these crooked politicians and their thug friends have stolen enough money from the state coffers they are in a position to book themselves into private hospitals, while the poorest of the poor of this country are left for dead. 

Let that rest on the consciences of the thieves that are leading this country, if indeed they do still have them.

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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