Thursday 13 June 2024


Analysts predict that if Dr Phophi Ramathuba, Limpopo province’s Health Member of the Executive Council (MEC), is appointed Premier of that province in South Africa, she will continue to pursue her anti-migrant policies.

Dr. Ramathuba created outrage in August 2022 when, as MEC, she berated a Zimbabwean female patient seeking surgery at Bela-Bela, a public hospital. She was filmed telling the Zimbabwean woman that Zimbabwe, not South Africa, must take responsibility for her health issues.

“You are supposed to be with Mnangagwa,” Dr Ramathuba said at the time. “You are killing my health system. When you guys are sick, you just say, ‘Let’s cross the Limpopo River; there’s an MEC there who’s running a charity department.’”

These sentiments arise as Zimbabweans watch political developments in South Africa with keen interest after the May 29, 2024, elections created a stalemate, forcing the African National Congress (ANC) into government of national unity (GNU) negotiations with opposition parties. In these negotiations, it has been said the Patriotic Alliance (PA) opposition party wants the Home Affairs portfolio.

However, in Limpopo province, the former ruling party won a clear majority to create a provincial government for the next five years, and Dr Ramathuba looks set to become the Limpopo Premier. If this happens, Limpopo province is expected to have its first female Premier.

Dr. Ramathuba was criticised on social media for violating medical ethics, while South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called for her sacking due to her conduct.

In interviews with CITE, Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, leader of the African Diaspora Global Network, said Dr Ramathuba has shown a lot of hatred for the migrant community, which is concerning given that Limpopo is a border post town frequented by many migrants entering the country.

“She may lack tolerance for the migrant community, and her sentiments are quite rampant in the health sector in South Africa. Dr. (Aaron) Motsoaledi, before he became (current) Minister of Home Affairs, was also engaged in similar conduct. One can see a tendency to align with populist rhetorical sentiments to be seen as the next best available person for a particular position,” he said, noting that Dr Motsoaledi was in the health sector before moving to Home Affairs.

Dr Sibanda said, “Obviously, from Dr Ramathuba’s sentiments, it is possible that she was positioning herself for a key government post. We think she was bringing herself up to this position, positioning herself, putting herself on the map so that she could be seen as the right person for the province to deal with issues of people coming from across the border to seek assistance.”

“So, it is quite plausible that the only logical explanation for why she is now the candidate for the Premier position is because she has been positioning herself by showing that she saves the government a lot of money by chasing migrants. That is very, very unfortunate in a constitutional country like South Africa.”

Dr Khanyile Mlotshwa, a critical studies scholar, said the potential new leader of Limpopo province may continue perpetuating discriminatory tendencies against African migrants, which is unfortunate.

“Considering her strong views against foreign African nationals, it is possible that, if she became in charge of Limpopo province, she might try to create a province that acts as a wall between Johannesburg and the rest of Africa,” he said.

Dr Mlotshwa noted that while migrants may struggle to operate under Dr. Ramathuba’s watch, discriminatory or xenophobic policies frequently fail.

“I said she might try to create a province that acts as a wall between Johannesburg and the rest of Africa, in that most poor migrants use the road into South Africa. They will find it difficult, but not impossible, to cross Limpopo province and reach Gauteng province. I say impossible because her efforts to close out foreign African nationals will fail, just as they failed under the apartheid government,” he said.

However, the Chairperson of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, Nicholas Ngqabutho Mabhena, doubted she had been positioning herself for the Premier post, saying she was a senior ANC member in Limpopo.

“I do not think so. She is one of the senior members of the ANC in the province. Each province is asked to nominate three candidates, and the ANC officials select the Premier,” he said.

When Dr Ramathuba expressed those discriminatory sentiments, the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa stated it watched her video with shock and disbelief, noting that the two neighbouring countries have appropriate channels for communication that should be fully used to raise grievances. CITE


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