KZN Covid-19 vaccine delay: MEC can’t hide behind political deflection forever

Issued by Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL – DA KZN Spokesperson on Health
18 Feb 2021 in Press Statements

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) notes the statement from provincial Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, in response to our claim that she issued an instruction to Albert Luthuli Hospital’s Covid-19 Vaccine team to stop the vaccinations of 40 healthcare workers, scheduled to take place yesterday.

The instruction, issued via Whatsapp, has since gone viral on social media. The DA will consequently scrutinise whether she is fit to run her office.

The MEC can hide behind political deflection if that’s what she chooses, but the Whatsapp instruction is there for all to see and she still needs to answer for that.

While her statement is predictable in its denialism, it is also typical of the arrogance that the DA has come to expect from her. At no point does she deal with the substance of our claim – that she sent an order and that, in so doing, she purposefully stopped the vaccinations.

Of grave concern though is the warning by the MEC, in her statement, that ‘staff who want to get ahead of internal processes, or those who leak false information to the media, that such conduct will not be tolerated’.

This is a blatant threat aimed at whistle blowers within the DoH, telling them that if they provide information regarding any immoral and/or illegal actions, they will be taken to task.

The Zondo Commission has shown us how silence, particularly when it comes to the theft of funds, has led to state capture and the MEC’s words are out of line. Importantly, silence when wrongdoing occurs, results in lives lost within the DoE.

The MEC is not above the law and in trying to enforce an official silence – and preventing her officials from speaking out about wrongdoings – she has shown her true colours, placing her own need for control ahead of the needs of KZN’s people who rely on public healthcare.

The DA stands by its belief that the reason for the vaccinations being stopped yesterday is because the MEC – in an act of unprecedented vanity – wanted to be there herself and that she was unable to due to the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature conducting school functionality oversight inspections at the time. Certainly, as a non-medical professional, she did not need to be there to help.

Instead, her actions are a slap in the face to every healthcare worker in our province who has made the ultimate sacrifice – putting not only their own lives but those of their families on the line for almost a year.

The DA is doing everything possible to ensure the speedy roll out of vaccines to KZN’s people. Yet, it is the MEC herself who is delaying or derailing their being administered into the arms of healthcare workers.

All of the plans regarding the co-ordination of vaccines should have been sorted out weeks ago for the AstraZeneca vaccine. According to National Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, there are no new special arrangements to be made as the only difference with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it is a single dose vaccine.

The MEC must be held accountable for her shocking lapse in judgement. In this regard, the DA will write to Premier Sihle Zikalala and request that he institute a full enquiry into her actions as well as her fitness to hold such high office.

It is untenable that our province should have a Health MEC who is more interested in her own agenda than the lives of the people.