Who made the noise?

Grocott's Mail - - OPINION AND ADVICE -

Since March of this year Gro­cott’s Mail has fer­vently worked to in­ves­ti­gate the Eastern Cape’s men­tal health­care cri­sis, par­tic­u­larly Tower Hos­pi­tal in Fort Beau­fort. We have vis­ited the hos­pi­tal mul­ti­ple times, and con­ducted in depth in­ter­views with the hos­pi­tal man­age­ment as well as sev­eral staff mem­bers. Our find­ings re­vealed not only short­com­ings at Tower Hos­pi­tal, but of the Eastern Cape sys­tem as a whole. We fur­ther in­ves­ti­gated and pub­lished sto­ries about al­leged pa­tient abuse at Fort Eng­land and staff worn down by con­di­tions at Ce­cilia Maki­wane. Our in­ves­tiga­tive work cul­mi­nated in a two-part doc­u­men­tary in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Health-e News on ENCA’S Check­point. It was, and re­mains, a great achieve­ment for the news­pa­per.

How­ever, yes­ter­day morn­ing, Health Om­bud Dr Male­ga­puru Mak­goba de­nied ev­ery ounce of in­for­ma­tion that had come from the me­dia in re­spect to Tower Hos­pi­tal. He re­leased his own in­ves­tiga­tive re­port and flat-out said that there were no hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. Not only did he deny the nu­mer­ous al­le­ga­tions, but spent an un­ruly amount of time slam­ming the whistle­blower who brought them to light. He also lam­basted the me­dia for “re­port­ing on fal­si­ties, and ped­dling lies”.

Ar­guably the most trou­bling part of Mak­goba’s pub­lic de­nounce­ment was his re­peated ref­er­ence to “noise”, but re­peated back­lash against the whistle­blower. Mak­goba stated that the changes be­ing made to Tower Hos­pi­tal were a re­sult of the “noise”, not the com­plaint made by the whistle­blower.

So, Dr Mak­goba, who made the noise? South Africa is a trou­bled democ­racy, and just as the free­dom of the me­dia must be pro­tected and fought for, so must the free­dom of whistle­blow­ers. Gro­cott’s Mail has worked ex­ten­sively with PSAM to as­sure that this con­vic­tion is ex­pressed through our re­port­ing.

The Tower whistle­blower made a pro­tected dis­clo­sure and un­der the Pro­tected Dis­clo­sures Act should not be sub­ject to such back­lash. Dr Mak­goba can­not ac­knowl­edge the “noise”, and yet si­lence the one who made it.

Keep Gra­ham­stown (KGG) cam­paign­ers, Jock Mc­connachie and Sigidla Ndumo have shown that keep­ing at an is­sue has its mer­its. The two men were pho­tographed 11 years ago in front of the City Hall with their sub­mis­sion to the Makana Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s Nam­ing Task Team. They ar­gued there was a lot rid­ing on the name Gra­ham­stown and that the city had more ur­gent prob­lems.

Many hear­ings and scores of more press­ing prob­lems later, Mc­connachie and Ndumo again posed for a photo in front of the City Hall. This time, their sub­mis­sion was to the Min­is­ter of Arts & Cul­ture, Nathi Mthethwa.

We won’t de­bate the mer­its of the name-change cam­paign. Rather, we salute that they have used the means guar­an­teed to them in the Bill of Rights and the Con­sti­tu­tion to pur­sue it.

It’s the Con­sti­tu­tion cit­i­zens should abide by, ac­cord­ing to le­gal prece­dent, when it comes to a pro­posal to di­vert rates to a pri­vate fund used di­rectly and ex­clu­sively for re­pairs, main­te­nance and ser­vices to the town.

It’s not hard to un­der­stand res­i­dents’ frus­tra­tion that has fu­elled this call. So far the law’s view has given prece­dence to “the ex­er­cise of re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards the sys­tems and struc­tures of so­ci­ety”, say­ing, “a cul­ture of self-help in which peo­ple refuse to pay for ser­vices they have re­ceived is not ac­cept­able” see page 3 story).

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