The Constitutional Court is the next stop in the Democratic Alliance’s (DA's) fight against the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.
On Wednesday, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) postponed the debate and vote on the NHI Bill much to the irritation of the DA.
It now plans to write to President Cyril Ramaphosa to petition him to either send the bill back to the National Assembly or to the Constitutional Court to test its constitutional validity.
DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube addressed a press conference outside the NCOP to detail the party's next move.
"If the president does not heed our call, we will invoke Section 80 of the Constitution, which indicates that a third of the members of the National Assembly may petition the ConCourt directly about the constitutionality of the bill – either parts of it or in its entirety," Gwarube said.
Gwarube said that the DA was not the only party in the National Assembly (NA) opposed to the bill.
"We believe that we can put together a third of the members of the NA to petition the courts directly. If, for some reason, we are not able to do this, the DA has already briefed its lawyers about this particular bill and the sections we are opposed to," she said.
The debate has been postponed to next week, after NCOP chairperson Amos Masondo received a letter asking that the vote be rescheduled.
Sources within the NCOP told News24 that chief whip Seiso Joel Mohai sent a notice of an urgent meeting at 13:32, asking to have a whips' meeting at 13:45.
It was here where opposition whips were told of a letter received by Masondo in which he was requested to defer the vote to 6 December.
In an unprecedented move, business organisations have written to the presiding officers of the NCOP as well as Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who is the leader of government business, urgently appealing to them to put a stop to the bill.
Last week, the NCOP Select Committee on Health and Social Services adopted the bill without any amendments to the version passed by the National Assembly, despite intense lobbying from Business Unity SA (Busa), Business for SA (B4SA), and healthcare professionals.
Healthcare professionals also voiced their concerns over the NCOP's refusal to amend the bill, which has moved almost entirely unchanged through the parliamentary process since 2019.
Business organisations are particularly concerned about Section 33 of the bill, which deals with the phasing-in of the NHI and the phasing out of private medical aid insurance. It states that "once the NHI is fully implemented as determined by the minister of health, medical schemes may only offer complementary cover to services not reimbursable by the fund".
Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has also weighed in on the matter.
Cosatu’s acting national spokesperson, Matthew Parks, has urged Parliament to pass the long-delayed legislation.
"The federation is deeply dismayed government wilted like a cheap suit under pressure from a little bit of lobbying by business to delay today’s scheduled passage of the NHI Bill by the National Council of Provinces. Pandering to the vested interests of private industry’s insatiable lust for profits at the expense of the health of millions of ordinary South Africans marks a dark day in our democracy," Parks said.
According to Parks, the country’s myriad of healthcare crises required the creation of the NHI.
"Government and the NCOP should not place the profit margins of private industry above the needs of society. We need government to speak with one voice as this level of policy uncertainty is not helpful. The ANC needs to exert itself and remind government and the NCOP that the NHI is an ANC policy mandate, not some seasonal slogan," he said.
Neither the ANC nor Parliament gave reasons as to why the vote was deferred to next week.
Presidency spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said on Wednesday that Ramaphosa wouldn't simply sign the controversial NHI Bill into law without giving due consideration to constitutional aspects and public participation processes.