In what is likely to ignite a diplomatic fight, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended the Limpopo Member of the Executive Council (MEC) of health Dr. Phophi Ramathuba saying the issue she raised while addressing a Zimbabwean patient seeking medical attention, is on top of the minds of many nationals.
Ramathuba sparked debate after she was recorded in a video berating a Zimbabwean patient at Bela Bela hospital in Limpopo province.
Responding to questions raised in the South African Parliament on the conduct of the MEC, Ramaphosa appeared to move away from his country’s usual quite diplomacy saying issues raised by Ramathuba should be discussed at the level of Heads of African Governments.
“The MEC of health in Limpopo has raised an important issue how service provision is affected by migration, that is an important issue that is on the top of minds of many South Africans and indeed it is part and parcel of having to deal with the whole issue of a framework around migration and not only on our continent but elsewhere as people move around the world.
“One of the issues they are asked is are you able to make provision for any service that might have to be offered to you in any shape or form so that is part of that whole process of having to deal with migration so the MEC has raised an important issue which is currently under debate.
“Of course she raised it in the presence of a patient and I guess such an important issue could have been raised another way but that as it may, it has been raised and it has evoked debate not only in our country but also in Zimbabwe and also the rest of the continent,” said Ramaphosa.
He added “It is a matter that is going to enjoy quite a lot of attendance even as we meet at head of states level to discuss what precisely the movement of people should really entail, what should accompany that in the form of services, health issues criminality and the rule of law, so all those matters are matters that are germane to the whole process of migration.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Embassy to South Africa had earlier castigated Ramathuba saying they had conveyed the concerns of the President Emmerson Mnangagwa administration to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
“The embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe in Pretoria watched with shock and disbelief the video (images) in which the Member of Executive Council (MEC) of Health Limpopo province spoke to a Zimbabwean national who happened to be a patient in a hospital in the area.
“The embassy has been in contact with the Government of South Africa through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to who it has conveyed the concerns of the Government of Zimbabwe on the concerns made by the MEC,” Zim embassy said in a statement.