MEC Phophi in trouble with HPCSA over rants

Limpopo MEC Phophi Ramathuba


SA Court dismisses Pophi ’s attempt to quash inquiry into her “killing my health system” rant at Zim patient

  • Limpopo MEC faces disciplinary inquiry for xenophobic rant at Zimbabwean patient

Limpopo MEC for Health Dr Phophi Ramathuba has been slammed for her disgraceful and insensitive remarks to a Zimbabwean patient at Bela Bela Hospital last year. The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has launched a disciplinary inquiry into her conduct, which was captured on video and widely circulated on social media.

Ramathuba, who is also a medical doctor and a member of the African National Congress (ANC), was visiting the hospital as part of her oversight duties when she encountered a bed-ridden patient who had crossed the border from Zimbabwe to seek medical attention. Instead of showing compassion and empathy, Ramathuba accused the patient of abusing state resources and putting a strain on the provincial health system.

“You are killing my health system. When you guys are sick you just cross the Limpopo River, there’s an MEC there who is running a charity department,” she said in the video.

The video sparked outrage and condemnation from various quarters, including human rights activists, opposition parties, civil society groups and ordinary citizens. Many called for Ramathuba to be fired, suspended or stripped of her medical licence for violating the oath of her profession and the constitution of the country.

The HPCSA, which is the statutory body that regulates health practitioners in South Africa, said it had received several complaints against Ramathuba emanating from the video. The council said it had initiated a disciplinary inquiry to probe whether Ramathuba had breached the ethical rules and standards of her profession.

The inquiry was scheduled to take place in July this year, but Ramathuba tried to stop it by approaching the Pretoria High Court for an interdict. She argued that the HPCSA had no jurisdiction over her as she was acting in her capacity as an MEC and not as a doctor when she made the comments.

However, Judge Anthony Millar dismissed her application, saying that she had failed to show any grounds for an interdict. He said that Ramathuba was still bound by the ethical obligations of her profession regardless of her political position. He also said that the HPCSA had a duty to investigate any allegations of misconduct against its members.

The judge ordered Ramathuba to pay the costs of the application. He also said that the inquiry should proceed as planned.

This is not the first time that Ramathuba has courted controversy for her utterances. In January this year, she told schoolgirls at Gwenane Secondary School in Sekgakgapeng to “open your books and close your legs” as a way of preventing teenage pregnancies. She later defended her statement, saying it was meant for boys as well.

Ramathuba has also been criticised for her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Limpopo, which has been plagued by shortages of staff, equipment, oxygen and vaccines. She has been accused of being arrogant, incompetent and out of touch with the realities on the ground.

Ramathuba has not yet commented on the outcome of the court case or the pending inquiry. She remains in office as the MEC for Health in Limpopo.

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