On the eve of the statement marking the 108th birthday of the governing African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s finance minister Tito Mboweni tweeted:

If you cannot effect deep structural economic reforms, then game over! Stay as you are and you are downgraded to Junk Status! The consequences are dire. Your choice…

Similar sentiments have been voiced by many well respected commentators concerned about the state of South Africa’s economy as well as its politics – and the ability of the ANC to provide effective leadership to address the major challenges it faces.

South Africa faces perhaps many more challenges than it did in the build up to the new constitution of 1994. These include a moribund economy and a governing party that is faction-ridden and ideologically disorientated. This is blamed for enabling much of the massive corruption and nepotism in the country best described as “state capture”.

What South Africa needs is a reformer who can redirect its politics to address issues related to economic growth and development, political stability, social cohesion, service delivery and several issues related to governance, management and administration.

It should all start with President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC, which he leads. He had the opportunity to set the tone this weekend when he delivered the ANC national executive committee’s January 8 statement to mark the party’s birthday. Such statements are viewed as being important because they provide direction for cabinet discussions ahead of the new legislative sitting of parliament as well as the state of the nation address delivered in February every year by the President.

Ramaphosa was expected to lay out the political direction for South Africa during 2020. Unfortunately, his speech failed to hit the mark. It didn’t offer any radical new ideas on the structural reforms hinted at by Mboweni. Ramaphosa showed a complete lack of party as well as political leadership. His inability to be bold and decisive about what needs to be done suggests that he is increasingly becoming a victim of his own party’s inability to deal with the difficult circumstances of the current negative state of affairs in the country.

What was missing

There was nothing new in the speech outside of the existing policy and strategy of the ANC. The core of his presentation were the usual talking points about rebuilding the state, reinforcing the state-owned enterprises, the battle against corruption and state capture, social cohesion, and economic growth and development.

Despite an emphasis on making state companies, specifically the power utility Eskom work, and making progress with land reform, no fresh proposals were made. More rhetoric, a lack of strategic vision and political survival at all costs seems to be the name of the game.

This is a far cry from what’s needed.

Even more difficult times lie ahead for Ramaphosa. His promise that this year will see decisive action against those implicated in widespread corruption – among them influential party leaders – will no doubt add to his precarious position in the party.

The ANC’s 108th birthday bash provided fresh evidence that Ramaphosa faces a very difficult political environment in the party. There were expectations that about 35 000 people would turn up. In the event only 11 500 arrived to hear him deliver his speech. Some party leaders bemoaned the poor attendance.

This shows that, beyond any doubt, 2020 is going to be dominated by the battle for control of the ANC. That battle will gain a lot of momentum towards the party’s national general conference which is due to be held in the middle of this year. The national general conference is held midway between party conferences, to debate the “strategic organisational and political issues facing the movement”.

There are already those who are already beginning to shows signs of mounting a challenge against him. These include those implicated in state capture, among them ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, as well as other disgruntled members of the ANC presenting themselves as a “coalition of the wounded”.

The outcome of this battle will have far reaching implications for the future for South Africa, and its ability to deal with its numerous challenges.

Decisive year ahead

The year ahead promises to be a very difficult but also a very decisive year for South Africa. Is Ramaphosa the man to take the country into a new dawn, or is he going to be the victim of a well-organised campaign to disrupt his intended initiatives?

This year will provide the perspective on the way forward. If strong forces within the ANC get their way, someone other than Ramaphosa will present the January 8 statement in 2021.

For ordinary South Africans, this presents a very difficult scenario, with the strong possibility that the economy will slide into recession.

This, plus amending article 25 of the constitution to enable the expropriation of land without compensation, will result in even lower investment levels, higher levels of political instability and bigger challenges in terms of food security.

This does does not augur well for the future of the country and the well-being of its citizens.The Conversation

 

Andre Duvenhage, Research Director, North-West University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has accepted the task, saying that a solution was surely possible. Egyptian officials have occasionally threatened military action against the dam.   

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday said he has asked South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in an ongoing dispute with Egypt and Sudan over Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam.

The filling of the dam has been a source of tension between the Nile countries. Egypt and Sudan argue that Ethiopia has not provided sufficient guarantees to their water supply, which is highly dependent on the Nile River.

All three countries were expected to have finished negotiations ahead of signing a deal later this week. But negotiators say significant issues remain.

"As (Ramaphosa) is a good friend for both Ethiopia and Egypt and also as incoming AU chair, he can make a discussion between both parties to solve the issue peacefully," Abiy said at a press conference in the South African capital Pretoria.

Egyptian fishermen fish on the Nile River as the sun sets in Cairo, Egypt

Egypt fears its water supply could be threatened by the dam

'A solution can be found'

For his part, Ramaphosa said he had accepted the task and that he had already reached out to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

"The Nile River is important to both countries and there must be a way in which both their interests can be addressed," said Ramaphosa. "There must be a way in which a solution can be found."

Concerns over the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, one of the main sources of the Nile River, have dogged relations between the African nations for years. At times, Egyptian officials have threatened military action against the dam, including airstrikes, saying its existence poses an existential risk to Egypt.

For Ethiopia though, the dam is a much-needed source of power to energize what has become one of Africa's fastest growing economies.

Ethiopia and South Africa also signed several trade agreements spanning health, tourism and telecommunications industries during Abiy's visit.

 

Credit: DW

South Africa’s Massmart Holdings, majority owned by U.S. retail giant Walmart , said on Monday it was in consultations with unions and other stakeholders to close up to 34 stores, which could lead to up to 1,440 job losses.

The potential closures are the result of a “store optimisation project that highlighted a number of underperforming stores”, Massmart, which swung to its first half-year trading loss in two decades last year, said in a statement. 

 

Reuters

Being darker makes being a migrant much harder

South Africa is becoming infamous on the world stage for its violent, even deadly, xenophobia. Attacks periodically erupt. Often the targets are African foreign nationals as well as Bangladeshis and Pakistanis.

Similarly, in India, xenophobic sentiment is aimed at Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and African migrants, some of whom have even lost their lives.

Yet, in my research on migration to India and South Africa, I found that migrants’ experiences vary greatly: while many experienced xenophobia, many did not. In fact, there were migrants in both societies who were warmly received and enjoyed xenophilia – the love of foreigners.

The aim of my research was to try to find out why some foreigners are welcomed with open arms while others are denigrated, or even murdered.

I found that socio-economic status was extremely significant. Two additional characteristics also determined what daily life in a new country was like for a person: their skin colour and their country of origin. Local people assign values to these characteristics.

Wealthier, lighter-skinned migrants were often the most warmly greeted, especially those from “developed” countries with “First World cultural capital”.

In a skewed, unequal global economy, it is important to understand how the experiences of white or light-skinned migrants compare to darker-skinned migrants. This comparison enables an analysis of how prejudice and privilege affect daily life.

In South Africa, as in India, whiteness or lightness often denotes power and prestige. There are many stereotypes associated with skin colour. For example, the label “yellow-bone” is often used in South Africa as a compliment to women with light brown skin. The term is associated with US slavery.

In South Africa, dark skin is often used as a way to identify foreigners during xenophobic attacks. (Stereotype holds that South Africans are “light” but this is not true as they can have any skin tone.) In India, dark skin is often associated with poverty, partially due to the hierarchichal caste system.

When a migrant enters the new society, the local population tends to “read” the migrant’s skin tone and then assign it positive or negative associations. Thus to understand the migrant experience, we must understand these associations and stereotypes.

Colour matters

Skin colour dictates what opportunities and challenges occur in a migrant’s daily life.

For example, previous research found that darker-skinned migrants to the US received significantly lower wages than migrants with the same qualifications who had fairer complexions.

My research, which involved collecting data through interviews, focused on middle-class professionals who had left more industrialised countries such as Japan, South Korea and those in the West to live in industrialising countries like India and South Africa.

In India, white men told me how their white privilege enabled them to get ahead in their business and social lives. For their part, dark-skinned African migrants told me that they were sometimes called derogatory names like “monkey.”

In South Africa, racial hierarchies affected the experiences of migrants. An American woman living in Johannesburg explained to me that being Caucausian in a highly-racialised South Africa where white people wielded a great deal of economic power afforded her a lot of clout.

If anything, I think I’m surprised by how often as a white American, people are still afraid to confront or challenge me in some way. I think there are times in which probably the colour of my skin gives me power in their eyes…

But white privilege and prejudice against dark skin are not just about a migrant’s skin colour. The reception of a migrant is also related to local attitudes about the migrant’s country of origin.

Developed country advantage

People in “emerging markets” like South Africa and India view migrants from more “developed” nations as adding value because they see them as a benefit to their own country’s development.

This belief is based on the perceived relative difference in “modernity” and “developmental” levels between different countries.

For example, in South Africa and India, the local populations tended to view their economic development as more “advanced” than that of countries like Zimbabwe or Nigeria.

Hence when South Africans and Indians encounter African migrants they associate them with the negative stereotype of being from less “developed” countries.

The inverse perception becomes a benefit for migrants from “First World” countries. Researchers in international politics illustrate how “status attribution” benefits powerful countries because their perceived status gives them even more power. This is true for migrants from powerful countries too.

Many of the middle-class professionals I studied were actually economic migrants seeking out better opportunities by moving to “developing” countries. But they were not perceived in the same way as economic migrants from poorer countries because of the admiration local people had for their country of origin.

A white American man who moved from New York to Johannesburg told me that South Africans would ask him: “Why would you choose to be here as opposed to the USA … I think the States in general, Europe in general, people look up to it.”

A white Dutch woman who had moved to Cape Town told me, “Many people think of Europe as this wonderful place of opportunity and of education … I think that’s why many people are quite open to having me.”

Developed-country advantage is not only enjoyed by white migrants. I found that skin colour, like gender, was a dependent variable that was interpreted in relation to other factors. African American, black British, and Afro-German migrants I interviewed in South Africa also reported experiencing the developed country advantage.

When a migrant benefits from positive stereotypes of being wealthier, fairer or coming from a “developed” country, xenophilia can result. The converse is that being perceived as darker, poorer and coming from an “inferior” country can factor into xenophobia.The Conversation

 

Melissa Tandiwe Myambo, Research Associate, Centre for Indian Studies, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

South Africa has significantly more financial crime than most other countries. With a rate of 77% compared to a global average of 49%, SA is something of a hotbed for fraud and scams

As consumers and insurance-seekers we need to understand the risks of economic crime and how to avoid becoming a victim, the risks of committing insurance fraud and how to avoid being inadvertent perpetrators of fraud ourselves, by for example, omitting information in an insurance application

Herman Lombard, Founder and Executive Director of financial services provider African Unity, explains that an intentionally fraudulent claim could result in cancellation of the policy as well as a negative reputation with the insurer and the industry in general. 

“Consumer fraud is the second highest ranking category of reported economic crime in the country and life insurance fraud in particular has seen a recent spike, which means insurance companies are being increasingly thorough and vigilant”.

Multiple retrenchment applications from the same employer; natural death suspiciously soon after the commencement of a life-policy; and opportunistic life policies taken against the imminent death of casual church or work acquaintances are some of the most common insurance scams perpetrated by consumers.

Companies however are rising to the challenges of intensified scam activity, becoming more self-aware and able to identify and correct their own vulnerabilities.

Lombard explains that the best way to avoid the pitfall of unintentionally committing fraud yourself is to ‘overshare’ and disclose absolutely everything in your insurance applications, even if you’re uncertain of its relevance. “The rule of thumb is to rather share too much than too little and risk future payouts,” he says.

As many South Africans know only too well, there are many insurance sales fraudsters who be able to victimise even the savviest consumer.  One of the most common is linked to funeral cover where the victim is led to believe they have bought funeral cover and pay over their monthly premiums in good faith.  These ‘policies’ are often sold face-to-face, and the premiums collected in cash. It’s very often only when a loved one passes away and the funds are needed to cover funeral costs that the ‘policy-holder’ will discover that they don’t have the cover they thought they had.

Lombard advises that when buying insurance, consumers must ensure that they know which insurance company will be responsible for paying out the claims and must ensure that it is a reputable organisation.  He adds that customers must also insist on seeing the policy document before handing over any money.

But economic fraud doesn’t stop there. 

The internet and social media have provided a whole new world of potential scams to fraudsters.  Digital banking fraud has increased dramatically and in 2018 amounted to a staggering R262 million in gross losses in South Africa. 

Lombard explains that the most common digital banking frauds are unauthorised SIM swaps while you’re on your banking app, or voice phishing or ‘vishing’ where a fraudster persuades you over the phone to divulge confidential information related to your bank account, like your one-time password (OTP).

People who live alone should remain especially wary as research shows this group is particularly susceptible to scammers and fraudsters, having no one else around to potentially warn or intervene. There appears to be a strong correlation between social isolation and becoming a victim of fraud. Financial illiteracy, as well as financial desperation play a significant role.

Experts warn that social-media based scams are also highly prevalent and effective in duping victims, far more than their veteran telephone- and email- based counterparts. “Don’t let your guard down and try to ensure the authenticity of each and every communication you receive.” says Lombard.

“Prior knowledge of how a scam works enables consumers to detect red flags and dissociate before they even begin to engage with scammers”, says Lombard.

Some of the most common types of online scams to watch out for in SA are:

Fake Facebook Giveaway – Scammers lure victims with promises of outrageously generous prizes, only to ‘phish’ the personal and financial details of those naïve enough to engage. These scams usually attempt to mimic a popular brand or celebrity page, as such your first line of defence is to ensure you are dealing with a Facebook-verified company page.

CNP (Card not Present) Fraud – This very common fraud involves illegitimate online purchases without the use of a physical card or the cardholder’s permission. The card details are usually acquired via data breaches, malware or phishing. Be cautious with your credit cards and only shop at reputable online stores. Watch your statements, and obviously never give out credit card details in your emails.

Advance-Fee Scam – this involves being offered a vast sum of money for a seemingly legitimate reason, on condition that a small administrative fee is deposited and / or bank details furnished. Often the ruse is successful because scammers pose as financial service providers offering personal loans. Always check whether an alleged financial services provider has a genuine official website. Spelling and grammatical errors are a major red flag. And remember that a real registered credit provider would never ask for money upfront in order to confirm a loan.

WhatsApp Scams – Similar to the Facebook scams, these work by virally spreading links that appear to be from either an above-board business or WhatsApp itself. Clicking on the links allow fraudsters to infiltrate your device with malware. Be very wary of any WhatsApp messages which offer prizes or discounts and which requires to be spread among your contacts.

“There are many types of scams which are designed to steal the things that you hold dear, like your identity and your hard-earned cash.  If you have been scammed it’s important that you report it and that you talk about it to your friends and family so that they don’t fall victim to the many unscrupulous crooks out there,” concludes Lombard.

South Africa has the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world, with an alarming figure of 13%. The global average stands at 6%. One of the main causes of South Africa’s rate is the rapid growth of the country’s commercial food industry.

This has led to increased consumption of cheap, easily accessible and ultra-processed food that is high in sugar.

We analysed the sugar content of a variety of baby food products. The study sample included commercially available baby foods – including boxes of cereals and jars of processed food – targeted at children under 12 months and sold in supermarkets and other major retailers in South Africa. We collected data on sugar content and compared this with recommended intake guidelines. We also checked if the sugar content was added sugar or free sugar – the kind often found in processed food.

We also characterised the food based on back of the package information. This wasn’t easy as the facts are provided in tiny font that is difficult to read and interpret. For example the content is usually shown as grams per 100 ml or per serving, not in teaspoons.

Our findings showed that most baby cereals have added sugar. This is a concern because they are often the first food given to babies when they are weaned. We also found that pureed fruit and desserts had very high levels of sugar (20g or more per serving; that’s about 4 teaspoons).

This is bad news for the future health of South Africa’s population because it encourages a “sweet tooth” in children – in other words a preference for foods that taste sweet for the rest of their lives.

Sugar is a big contributor to increased tooth decay. It also results in childhood weight gain and obesity that causes preventable diseases later in life such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. Although the sweet-taste preference is present at birth, exposure to too much sugar early in life can affect what people eat, including a preference for sweet things.

What this adds up to is that, in the long term, sugar in baby products will contribute to South Africa’s rising burden of noncommunicable diseases and will affect life expectancy.

Global weaning guidelines recommend that babies get fed complementary foods that don’t have added sugars. The aim is to ensure that the threshold for sweet tastes is set at lower levels. In turn, this helps prevent health problems in both childhood as well as later in life.

We conclude that there’s an urgent need to start regulating sugar in baby foods. South Africa’s childhood obesity crisis won’t be resolved unless the baby food industry stops promoting the development of sweet preference from an early age.

What we found

Commercial baby foods are often introduced as first foods to infants in South Africa because they are convenient and easy to use. This makes our findings particularly alarming.

We collected and analysed the sugar content of 235 baby food items from 12 different manufacturers sold in major South African supermarkets. Nearly 90% were prepared baby food products, of which 35% were pureed fruit and 20% were pureed meals.

Only one in five of the baby foods in the study had acceptable levels as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – that is, less than 20% of total calories was derived from sugar.

But nearly 80% of cereals and pureed desserts contained added sugar. Processed meals that contained added sugar, including honey, were a carrot blend with semolina and two types of breakfast oats.

The study also shed light on the fact that little information was available to consumers on the ingredients used in the baby foods. For example, it was almost impossible to identify which products had added sugar versus those that had intrinsic (natural) sugars only. Both are unhealthy in processed products.

Recommendations

On the basis of our study, we have a number of recommendations. The first is that the amount of sugar in baby food should be regulated as a matter of urgency. To start with, mandatory disclosure of added sugar by manufacturers and the introduction of a food labelling system is essential.

A promising example is Chile’s warning octagonal logos that tell consumers if a product exceeds a recommended limit of sugar. There is already less demand for juices and cereal with high sugar content.

And given the importance of serving sizes in controlling obesity, information on nutrients per portion and the number of portions per package should be included. It would help if this were standardised across all related food products, which is currently not the case.

Consumers can’t make informed choices about what’s in the food they are feeding their infants without easily understandable labels of calorie and nutritional information. Even if they wanted to stick to the WHO’s recommendation that the intake of free sugars should be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake, the public can’t do so because of a lack of clearly understandable information.

We also recommend limiting sweet, processed baby foods in favour of healthier alternatives.

 

We acknowledge the contribution of Agnes Erze in the preparation of this piece. She is a research fellow at the SAMRC/Wits Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science/PRICELESS.The Conversation

Karen Hofman, Professor and Program Director, SA MRC Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science - PRICELESS SA ( Priority Cost Effective Lessons in Systems Stregthening South Africa), University of the Witwatersrand and Nicola Christofides, Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

South African police said on Thursday they had arrested a number of people, including two former senior managers of Eskom, on suspicion of involvement in fraud and corruption worth 745 million rand ($51 million) at the troubled state-run power firm.

The managers, as well as two business directors and seven companies, are expected to appear in court on Thursday to face the police allegations, which also included money laundering, South Africa’s elite police unit the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority said in a joint statement.

The individuals, who were not named, were arrested earlier in the day following an investigation into the construction of large projects at two power stations, the statement said.

This revealed “gross manipulation” of contracts between contractors, Eskom employees and third parties at one of them, it continued.

“Eskom continues to work with law enforcement agencies … to root out corruption and malfeasance,” the power provider said in a statement, adding the names of the individuals could not be revealed until they appeared in court.

“We … will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that perpetrators … are brought to book,” it added.

The ailing utility, which provides 90% of South Africa’s power, has been struggling to keep the lights on amid serious financial problems in part stemming from years of mismanagement and alleged graft.

Last week, it had to implement some of the most far reaching planned blackouts in years and is regularly cited by ratings agencies as one of the main risks to South Africa’s economy.

“This is a great milestone in the fight against corruption in our country,” South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit, which was also looking into the allegations, said.

Eskom’s problems are a headache for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has staked his reputation on fixing ailing state-owned firms and reviving South Africa’s flagging economy.

 

Reuters

Former leader of the radical South African left, Julius Malema, was unsurprisingly reappointed on Saturday night at the head of his party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) meeting Congress in Johannesburg.

“For the position of president, it is Mr. Julius Malema,” Terry Tselane, a private company official in charge of organizing the election, told the 3,000 party delegates.

Aged 38, Mr. Malema founded the EFF in 2013 after his ouster from the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Still wearing his red beret as “commander in chief” of the movement, he presents himself as the defender of the poorest and advocates the redistribution of wealth for the benefit of the country’s black majority, whose situation has improved little, a quarter of a century after the fall of apartheid.

His anti-capitalist and willingly anti-White rhetoric, particularly in favour of expropriation without compensation of land held in majority by the white minority, has led to multiple lawsuits.

In last May’s general elections, the EFF won nearly 11% of the vote, a significant increase over the previous election, and increased the number of its members in the Cape Town Parliament from 25 to 44.

“We represent the poor and oppressed here,” Julius Malema reaffirmed on Saturday by opening his party’s congress.

“The scars of colonialism and apartheid are still there. The failure to change the property structures in our economy and return the land to our people has resulted in our people having political rights, but no economic freedom,” he said to applause.

The EFF congress – the second in its young history – is disrupted by a controversy arising from its refusal to accredit several local media, including the online news website Daily Maverick, which published several articles accusing party leaders of embezzlement.

“No other party in post-apartheid South Africa has been considered as much of an enemy of society as the EFF,” Malema lamented in the gallery, denying the corruption charges as “a storm in a glass of water.

In solidarity with the banned media, the news channel eNCA has decided to suspend its coverage of the congress.

“Good riddance,” the EFF reacted in a statement.

Malema wants the six-year-old organisation to have a presence everywhere on the continent.

“Our vision is not these small-minded things you’re thinking about; we want to lead Africa. We want a United States of Africa with one currency, economy, and judiciary,” Malema said.

 

Credit: Africa Global Village 

The phrase “medical xenophobia” is often used to describe the negative attitudes and practices of South African health care professionals towards refugees and migrants. It is used whenever foreign nationals are denied access to any medical treatment or care.

Research on migration and health in South Africa has documented public health care providers as indiscriminately practising “medical xenophobia”. But this dominant, single narrative around migrants and health care is misleading.

My recent research showed that there was more complexity, ambivalence and a range of possible experiences of non-nationals in South Africa’s public health care system. I conducted the research in a public health clinic in Musina, a small town on the border of South Africa and Zimbabwe.

I found that frontline health care workers provided services, including HIV treatment, to black African migrants who are often at the receiving end of xenophobic sentiment and violence. This was in spite of several institutional and policy-related challenges.

Discretion and innovation played a crucial role in inclusive health care delivery to migrants in a country marred by high xenophobic sentiment. This was because health care providers subscribed to an ethos of what was right for the patient.

Public health and individual discretion

There are a few issues with the current framing of “medical xenophobia”. First, the focus on attitudes – and not health care delivery – reflects a particular generalisation of how health providers are perceived to treat African migrants in South Africa.

This framing does not consider challenges facing the health system. These include shortages of medical personnel. Many migrants seeking care in South Africa’s public health system do face challenges arising from being “foreigners”. But there are other grounds beyond citizenship or legal status on which medical care might be denied. Not all cases of poor treatment are “medical xenophobia”.

South Africans also face challenges with the public health care system. These are related to the general shortages of nurses and doctors. Other challenges include high bed occupancy, high workload, low morale among nurses in public health facilities and the burden of the HIV pandemic.

Second, existing policy responses to communicable diseases in South Africa and the southern African region do not adequately cater for migrants. For example, treatment guidelines in South Africa have been found to be incomplete or inapplicable to migrant patients. Policies and programmes in the Southern African Development Community on communicable diseases such as HIV do not extend to migrant patients.

Health care providers often have to operate within these institutional, bureaucratic and policy constraints.

This scenario makes frontline discretion unavoidable. Health care providers have to rely on their own judgement to determine what “best practices” to invoke with relatively little input or interference from other institutions.

In spite of these challenges, frontline health care providers were doing their best to provide health services to black African migrants. They bypassed institutional and policy-related barriers to registering and treating undocumented migrants, non-native speaking migrants and migrants without referral letters.

This suggests that the experiences of non-nationals in South Africa’s public health care system were more complex and varied than implied by the dominant discourse on “medical xenophobia”.

It is true that some health care providers stereotyped migrant patients and blamed them for their destitution. But my research showed that these stereotypes didn’t directly translate to the exclusion of migrant patients from health care services. This was because of the health workers’ strong professional conduct and an awareness of the public health implications of not providing migrant patients with HIV treatment.

Working around the system

Health care providers in the clinic I visited came up with a system of using the date of birth to identify and keep a record of undocumented migrant patients. This replaced the 13-digit South African identity number, which is normally used to open patient files. Several of them used notions of morality, ethics and public service to frame their decision making. They understood health care to be a right for everyone, in line with Section 27 of the country’s constitution.

Others provided HIV treatment to migrant patients without referral letters. This decision was also mediated by how patients professed their “belonging” through “alternative” forms of knowledge and expertise. For example, one nurse claimed that she only provided anteretroviral therapy if migrant patients demonstrated knowledge of their medication, or if they brought a medicine container for a refill.

Health care providers reported difficulties interacting with migrant patients who spoke Swahili, French, Portuguese or Chewa. Staff and local patients worked together to ensure that migrant patients accessed health care services, often in extremely demanding circumstances. Health care providers made the effort to connect with migrant patients through informal interpreters by asking co-workers or patients fluent in these non-native languages to translate in English or other native languages.

These health care providers didn’t use language, documentation and referral letters to discriminate against migrant patients. They used innovation, creativity and compromise to provide services to migrant patients living with HIV.

Way forward

Policymakers need to recognise the importance of human relationships, communication networks, leadership and motivation in strengthening the country’s ailing public health system.

More crucially, activists need to identify the informal, inclusive and innovative practices of health care providers in addressing challenges related to documentation, referrals and language.

This should be coupled with calls to strengthen and invest in these grassroots responses to build greater solidarity. This is what can be done while waiting for policymakers to respond to ongoing calls for public health care systems to adequately engage with mobility.The Conversation

 

Kudakwashe Vanyoro, Research Communications Officer and Doctoral Researcher at the African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

South Africa’s Vodacom Group and MTN Group could face prosecution if they do not agree with the Competition Commission in the next two months to lower data prices, the watchdog said in findings from an inquiry published on Monday.

The data services inquiry was launched in August 2017 in response to a request from the minister of economic Development and after complaints from consumers about high data costs.

In its final report, the Commission recommended that the two mobile operators must independently reach agreement with the competition watchdog on substantial reductions on tariff levels, especially prepaid monthly bundles, within two months of the release of the report.

It said the preliminary evidence suggests that there is scope for price reductions in the region of 30% to 50%.

The mobile operators must also reach agreement “to cease ongoing partitioning and price discrimination strategies that may facilitate greater exploitation of market power and anti-poor pricing.”

“With respect to the above recommendations on the level and structure of pricing, should an operator fail to reach the required agreements with the Commission within the specified timeframes, the Commission will proceed to prosecution under the appropriate sections of the Act,” The Commission said in a summary of its report.

 

Credit: Reuters

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