'The haves don't want poor to benefit', says Ramaphosa on opposition to NHI

Ramaphosa likens criticism of NHI to fears 'white people had in 1994'

Most commentators say the NHI will be a disaster. Stock photo.
Most commentators say the NHI will be a disaster. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf.com

President Cyril Ramaphosa has likened the opposition to the National Health Insurance (NHI) bill, which he is due sign into law on Wednesday, to the fear white people had at the prospect of every other South African citizen being granted the right to vote ahead of the first democratic elections in 1994.

The bill is aimed at ushering in a universal healthcare coverage where everyone has equal access to quality and affordable healthcare.

According to the department of health, the NHI is a fund from which the government will buy healthcare services for South Africans from healthcare providers both in the public and private sectors. 

It is aimed at making healthcare more affordable and in a way acts like a medical aid for everyone which will be contributed to by all through taxes and special contributions.

But there has been widespread opposition to the NHI with those opposed to it raising concerns about the government’s inability to oversee public healthcare.

Others say NHI basically makes private medical aid obsolete.

But Ramaphosa, a day before signing it into law, said that it was the haves who were against the have nots enjoying the same benefits as them.

“The NHI is one of those focus areas which is going to help poor people. And now the opposition on NHI is coming from well-to-do and rich people. It's coming from those who have the ability, and this is what often happens, the haves don't want the have nots to benefit from what they have been having,” said Ramaphosa. “And we are saying through NHI all our people must have equality, there must be a quality of healthcare in our country.”

Speaking at a business luncheon organised by the ANC on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said this type of opposition to equality was experienced when democracy was ushered in and all people were given the right to vote.

“And I know it drives fear into the hearts of many, just like for all our people getting a vote drove the biggest fear in the hearts of white people in this country, they were terrified. They were so afraid because they thought when everybody gets a vote, it means that the privileges that they always had are going to disappear,” he said.

The DA is opposed to the NHI, with its leader John Steenhuisen describing it as an introduction of a crisis that Ramaphosa was using as an electioneering tool just days before the polls.

He said Ramaphosa was signing the NHI bill into law as a last stand after realising that the ANC was haemorrhaging support.

“What he has done by making this announcement, is to play with the lives of the South African people for imaginary political gain. By making this announcement, Ramaphosa has made a fatal miscalculation,” said Steenhuisen on Tuesday. “His transparent desperation to find something — anything — he can spin as a populist 'solution' to the problems created by 30 years of ANC misrule, now confirms for all to see how scared the ANC is of the approaching election.”

Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa was gambling with people’s lives by introducing the bill.

The DA said it will fight its implementation all the way to the Constitutional Court

“By signing this bill into law on Wednesday, the ANC will be signing the death warrant of healthcare in South Africa,” he said. “The visceral and immediate rejection of Ramaphosa’s announcement by the South African people shows that they understand this for what it is. A cheap election ploy where the ANC is using the lives of the people as political props.”

But Ramaphosa said that his government was not reckless and that the introduction of the NHI would not be done in a destructive manner.

What was important, he emphasised, was that there were still a lot of inequality in the country and NHI was one of the ways the ANC was trying to resolve it.

“Let me tell you, my good friends, we are not a reckless government, we are a government that has focused on building a nation, on reconciliation, on making sure that there is equality fully in our country,” he said.

“We cannot and must not go on with a new South Africa when we still have inequality in some areas of life and healthcare, which is the most important area for the life of anyone is the one area where we need equality. And believe you me, we are going to have equality, whether people like it or not. That's what we are going to have.”