Who made the noise?
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).