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NHI is ANC’s last stand – Steenhuisen

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NHI is ANC’s last stand – Steenhuisen

DA leader John Steenhuisen
DA leader John Steenhuisen

14th May 2024

By: Sashnee Moodley
Senior Deputy Editor Polity and Multimedia

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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Monday night announcement that he would sign the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill into law on Wednesday, is a move made out of “sheer desperation”.

This was according to Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen who said the African National Congress (ANC) “cast around for any populist lever” ahead of the May 29 elections, as polls suggest the ruling party may lose its long-held majority in the country.

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“Unfortunately for the people of South Africa, Ramaphosa chose the NHI as the ANC’s last stand before it finally loses power in less than three weeks. It is difficult to think of a more cynical and destructive move. It is a dishonour to the Office of President that Ramaphosa could sink this low. What he has done by making this announcement, is to play with the lives of the South African people for imaginary political gain. By making this announcement, Ramaphosa has made a fatal miscalculation,” Steenhuisen said.

Business and civil society on Monday expressed concern following Ramaphosa’s announcement. They argue that the NHI Bill, in its current form, is unworkable, unaffordable, and not in line with the Constitution.

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Business Unity South Africa has warned the legislation is “unimplementable and damaging” to the country’s healthcare sector, to the economy more broadly and to investor confidence.

Steenhuisen claimed that the DA was inundated with queries from “panicked” citizens following Ramaphosa’s announcement.  

“Some of them asked if this meant that their sick relatives would continue to receive the critical care keeping them alive, whether their medical aids have now expired, and how they are supposed to afford the astronomical tax increases that Ramaphosa plans to impose. The scale of panic we saw in response to this announcement, is without precedent,” he said.

Steenhuisen called the impending signing of the NHI Bill a “cheap election ploy” and said the DA would challenge it in the Constitutional Court.  

The DA has been preparing for months to legally challenge the Bill, Steenhuisen revealed.

“We have built up reams of correspondence, including with Ramaphosa himself, that we will enter into evidence to show that the process which led to the adoption of this Bill by Parliament disregarded public input, and that the Bill itself is flagrantly unconstitutional,” he said.

The DA leader also promised that, if elected into power, his party would repeal the NHI Bill.

He warned of catastrophic corruption and the flight of doctors and nurses.

“We don’t need an Eskom for healthcare in this country. What we need is a new government that doesn’t steal the money meant for healthcare. That is why we need the DA in government. Not only will we bring our demonstrated expertise in running a world-class public health system in the Western Cape to bear. We will also partner with the private sector to leverage the expertise of our country’s world-class doctors and nurses to fix the public health sector that the ANC has broken. We will root out corruption and cadre deployment, improve service delivery, and protect existing zero-fee care at public facilities, just like we are already doing in the Western Cape,” Steenhuisen said.

The DA wants all sectors of society to join its legal challenge of the Bill, including the ANC’s alliance partner, the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

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