Acts of vigilantism and xenophobia in any form and in particular in the context of denying people access to healthcare are completely unacceptable, should be publicly condemned and perpetrators should be held accountable. (Photo: John Moore / Getty Images)

Open letter – Collective Voices against Health Xenophobia’s appeal to the health minister

  • Marlise Richter

On 7 February 2023, 26 civil society organisations wrote to the health minister and Gauteng’s health MEC to request an urgent meeting to address ongoing attempts to prevent migrant patients from accessing healthcare services – sometimes violently. Our hope is to work with the government to forge strategies to ensure access for all, as enshrined in Section 27 of the Constitution and provided for in the National Health Act and the Refugees Act.

There is evidence that the treatment and medication of some patients continue to be disrupted because they are being turned away from health facilities, while others have endured xenophobic abuse and harassment. Meanwhile, no action has been taken against the assailants who violently attacked migrant patients at the Jeppe Street Clinic in February 2023.

Neither the minister nor the MEC acknowledged our correspondence or responded, despite repeated efforts to engage them on this matter in February.

In an attempt to increase attention to this issue and in the hope of catalysing a response from our health leaders, we publish our letter here in full.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Medical xenophobia: It’s time to level the power imbalance in healthcare facilities

Similar incidents have recently been recorded at Zandspruit Clinic and Cosmo City Clinic.

This is a deliberate infringement on people’s right to access healthcare, a right enshrined in Section 27 of the country’s Constitution and provided for in the National Health Act and the Refugees Act. It also violates South Africa’s international obligations.

Preventing people from accessing health not only endangers individual health, but also public health. It ultimately increases the burden on the healthcare system as people who are turned away from healthcare become sicker and require more care. It also impacts on the ability of our country and the region to bring the continued spread of Covid-19 and other communicable diseases such as TB, HIV and measles under control.

It puts everyone’s lives at risk.