About 20 community health workers confronted Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize with a memorandum of demands during his visit to Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital in Mitchell’s Plain on Monday.
They sang struggle songs as he left the Lentegeur Conference Centre where he had been addressing officials and the media on Covid-19 vaccinations.
Ntombethemba Maduna, national chairperson of the South African Care Workers Forum, asked him, “What can we do with a R3,500 stipend? We have to send our kids to school and pay rent.”
She said the minister knew very well that community workers ought to be employed permanently.
Workers said they wanted to be vaccinated against Covid-19 along with nurses and other health workers.
“We wash sick people,” said community health worker Cynthia Tikwayo. “Some of us died of Covid-19, but their families didn’t get anything.”
Accepting the memorandum, Mkhize said, “I will discuss your complaints with the health committee. You must get vaccinated. I hear you.”
Earlier on Monday, the health workers had snubbed several officials wishing to address them, insisting they would only speak directly to the national minister. Community health workers accuse Western Cape Minister of Health Nomafrench Mbombo of ignoring them.
Dr Saadiq Kariem, Chief of Operations for Western Cape Health, said, “There are processes that are supposed to happen at the level of the bargaining council. We understand your concerns.”
But Tikwayo said, “It’s only now [that the minister is here] that you want to hear from us.”
Tikwayo said community health workers had as their priority getting recognition as professionals for what they do. They would “fight for salary increase afterwards”, she said.