BY SILAS NKALA
SOUTH Africa’s Department of Health in Musina has raised concern over the influx of Zimbabweans seeking treatment, especially maternity services in that country.
This emerged during a Zimbabwe-South Africa cross-border migration management stakeholders meeting held last Friday in Musina, where officials from that country complained over the influx of Zimbabwean patients.
The meeting was attended by officials from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and various government departments and ministries from both countries, including Health, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, among others.
Officials from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, United Nations Children’s Fund, International Committee of the Red Cross, Save the Children and Betibridge and Musina municipalities were also in attendance.
“The government of South Africa medical officer in charge of Musina district raised concern on the increasing number of Zimbabweans reported to be seeking medical services in South African clinics within Musina and Vhembe districts,” an IOM report read in part.
“He noted that this influx was compromising health delivery targets and outcomes in the districts. Services which Zimbabwean migrants were reported to be seeking include obstetric and delivery services and other specialist services, which come at a cost to the South African government, but the migrants were failing to pay for services rendered.”
Zimbabwe’s health sector is groaning under a myriad of challenges such as lack of medicines and drugs, while health professionals have been quitting in numbers protesting poor pay.
According to a Musina doctor quoted in the IOM report, South Africa could not turn away Zimbabweans seeking treatment despite expressing concern that this was stretching that country’s resources.
This comes at a time when South Africa has been tightening screws against undocumented Zimbabweans.
Pretoria has also announced a raft of immigration measures to stop the flow of Zimbabweans to that country, including not renewing the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEPs), which expired in December.
Zimbabweans have been advised to apply for new visas before December 31 or face deportation. There are an estimated 180 000 ZEP holders, and hordes of documented and undocumented Zimbabweans in the neighbouring country, with estimates putting the figure at three million.
The IOM report adds: “The reported cases may be of Zimbabweans (according to Zimbabwe officials) who are already in South Africa and who are working on the farms or wives of migrants already working in South Africa.
“It was noted that there is a need for regular engagement on migration health-related issues between the two counterpart ministries outside of the regular quarterly meetings to address any emerging issues of concern.”
- Follow Silas on Twitter @silasnkala