_: The community of Esikhawini near Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday used Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela’s last day in their province to bring to her attention service delivery issues they were grappling with.
The Public Protector was in the province as part of her office’s National Stakeholder Dialogue, which seeks to strengthen government’s ability to deliver of the Millennium Development Goals, placing emphasis on health and poverty.
The Public Protector’s week-long visit saw her interacting with and bringing the services of her office to communities in Pietermaritzburg, Ulundi and Esikhawini. She also met with Premier Zweli Mkhize and his cabinet, where a pioneering agreement that is set to expedite investigations involving senior officials of the provincial government and office bearers was signed.
The Public Protector also used her stay in the province to embark on unannounced visits to Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, Enmonjeni Hospital in Ulundi and Ngwelezane Hospital in Richards Bay, where she interfaced with both staff and patients.
At Esikhawini, the Public Protector was requested to intervene on a number of service failure allegations. These include problems with social grants, housing, important documents such IDs and drivers licenses, and basic service delivery issues such as water and electricity supply.
A number of older persons complained that they were living in poverty and government was unable to help because they had not yet reached the age that qualified them for old age grants. One man lodged his objection to the selling of the new smart IDs to citizens at the cost of R140 each. He said people should only pay to replace such documents when they are lost.
“It is government that sees the need to introduce these new IDs. Why are we then being made to foot the bill?” asked the man, adding that the cost of renewing drivers’ licenses was also unaffordable. Complaints about the alleged abrupt discontinuation of social grants for which beneficiaries qualified on medical grounds were also lodged with the Public Protector, with complainants telling the Public Protector that the action plunged them into poverty.
Two people, one of whom said she was speaking on behalf of a larger group of nursing graduates, said they were being discriminated against in terms of employment at a local public hospital on the basis that they were trained at a private institution. Further complaints about botched medical procedures and a call for a local clinic to operate 24 hours a day instead of the current arrangement, where the facility opens between 08h00 and 16h00, were raised.
Health, Social Development and Municipal representatives undertook to look into all matters concerning their respective institutions. The Public Protector also promised to follow up on all matters and to investigate the complex ones.
The dialogue moves to Northern Cape, Limpopo and Free State over the next three weeks. It has already seen the Public Protector interacting with communities in North West, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng.