Observer on Saturday - - Front Page - Sto­ries by Bodwa Mbingo

Min­is­ter of Heath Si­bongile Sime­lane has been ac­cused of em­ploy­ing un­der­hand tac­tics to at­tempt to stop the Par­lia­men­tary Se­lect Com­mit­tee ap­pointed to probe the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Phalala Fund from en­gag­ing in a fact find­ing mis­sion in South Africa this week.

This is af­ter the com­mit­tee al­leged to the Ob­server on Satur­day that the min­is­ter tried to pull all stops to stop them from trav­el­ling to South Africa to meet the ser­vice providers owed by the Fund to an ex­tent that they were in­structed by the min­is­ter not to even board the air­plane to South Africa early this week. The bone of con­tention was that the min­is­ter stated that they had no right to go to that coun­try with­out her con­sent, some­thing which upon reach­ing that coun­try they found was nei­ther here nor there. The Se­lect Com­mit­tee is headed by Som­n­tongo Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP) Sandile Nx­u­malo whose deputy is Nkhaba MP Menzi Dlamini and is com­pleted by Jo­hane Shongwe (Mba­bane West), Sal­adin Ma­gag­ula (Hhuk­wini) and Hosea MP Thu­lani Ma­suku.

Nx­u­malo in an in­ter­view with this pub­li­ca­tion this week dis­closed that had it gone ac­cord­ing to the min­is­ter, they would not have been able to un­cover the rot they found in South Africa where it con­cerns the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the Fund and the lack of due pay­ment to the var­i­ous ser­vice providers. In what came as both a shock and dis­ap­point­ment to a num­ber of Emaswati in re­cent weeks, Nx­u­malo re­ported in Par­lia­ment that South African hos­pi­tals had stopped treat­ing lo­cals trans­ferred to them through the Phalala Fund. He dis­closed that the prob­lem is that gov­ern­ment owes mil­lions of Emalan­geni to the South African health in­sti­tu­tions.

On March 19 this year, South African health in­sti­tu­tions are said to have stopped ren­der­ing health as­sis­tance to Emaswati un­der Phalala be­cause gov­ern­ment is said to be ow­ing them huge sums of money. The sit­u­a­tion is said to be dire to most Emaswati who are bank­ing their hopes on re­ceiv­ing treat­ment through Phalala Fund. Over 100 of Emaswati are af­fected by the sit­u­a­tion as they are said to have been brought back home be­cause of the non-pay­ment. Nx­u­malo was ad­dress­ing Par­lia­ment in his ca­pac­ity as Chair­man of the Par­lia­ment se­lect com­mit­tee ap­pointed to­wards the end of last year. The com­mit­tee was sup­posed to fin­ish its probe in Jan­uary this year, but could not due to per­ceived lack of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween gov­ern­ment and Par­lia­ment. Nx­u­malo was giv­ing an up­date on how they were con­duct­ing their probe into the al­leged mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion of Phalala Fund. He had re­vealed then that they wanted to ap­proach the South African health in­sti­tu­tions with an in­ten­tion of plead­ing on be­half of the sick Emaswati to be at­tended to while gov­ern­ment looked at means of set­tling the debts. The MPs probe team duly left for South Africa this week in a bid to ne­go­ti­ate with the health in­sti­tu­tions on be­half of Emaswati.

How­ever, the trip was not as an­tic­i­pated as the min­is­ter re­port­edly tried to stop their trip, but in vain. Nx­u­malo also re­vealed that the min­is­ter called the con­tact per­son in South Africa, Healthshare Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor (MD) Tony de Coito, who was in Nige­ria then, telling him not to re­ceive them when they ar­rive there be­cause they had bro­ken pro­to­col by em­bark­ing on the trip.

“The min­is­ter even called me in per­son and asked who had sanc­tioned our trip through a gov­ern­ment minute, to which I replied that it was the PM as ac­cord­ing to my knowl­edge it is his of­fice that per­forms such a task. She told me that we were not sup­posed to go to that coun­try with­out a sup­port­ing let­ter that she was sup­posed to at­tach to the minute for us to present to the South African ser­vice providers to be able to at­tend to us. It was in South Africa that we learnt that he had even called de Coito to stop us from meet­ing him. It was ex­plained to us that we did not need any sup­port­ing let­ter from the min­is­ter to meet hence our meet­ing pro­ceeded as planned,” he dis­closed.

The com­mit­tee chair­man said they were left very dis­ap­pointed by the min­is­ter’s move, es­pe­cially be­cause they failed to un­der­stand why she was stop­ping them from their mis­sion to as­sist sick Emaswati to con­tinue get­ting as­sis­tance in South Africa. Nx­u­malo thanked the Speaker of Par­lia­ment Themba Msibi and Clerk to Par­lia­ment Nd­vuna Dlamini for their as­sis­tance in en­sur­ing that their trip was a suc­cess. He also thanked his fel­low com­mit­tee mem­bers for stand­ing their ground and not be­ing in­tim­i­dated by the min­is­ter’s un­der­hand tac­tics. Min­is­ter Sime­lane, when reached for com­ment on the mat­ter, said she was not ready to en­ter­tain any­thing com­ing from the com­mit­tee at the mo­ment. “As you have rightly said, this is a Par­lia­ment se­lect com­mit­tee and I will ad­dress them in Par­lia­ment. Par­lia­ment is­sues are dealt with in Par­lia­ment. Uma wena ukhu­luma nabo es­i­gan­geni chubeka mine ngi­to­b­a­bona epha­la­mende (if you speak to them in shady places you can con­tinue, but as for me I will meet them in Par­lia­ment,” said the min­is­ter briefly.

AC­CUSED: Min­is­ter of Health Si­bongile Ndle­laSime­lane.

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