The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] in the Eastern Cape is gravely concerned about the lack of an effective strategy by the Eastern Cape Provincial Government to combat the spread of COVID-19.

As NEHAWU in the province, we had expected that in pursuance of a provincial tactical response to combat the spread of COVID-19 a number of considerable advances at a political and administrative level would be led by the office of the Director General in the office of the Premier immediately after the declaration of the nation-wide lockdown by the President of the Republic. This could have been the most effective approach as it has always been practised within the co-ordinating structures of the province either within ECSEC or chambers between labour unions and government to find answers to the most complex and complicated matters.

However, we are now more embarrassed to learn that there is no provincial strategy to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the province. The silo mentality in the planning and management of departmental strategies to stop the spread of the virus continues to cause harm and divisions between government authority, unions and the communities we serve. Recently, we have witnesses many different media statements with mixed massaging that tend to cause more harm to the welfare of workers and patients in this province due to their misleading nature.

A systematically crafted and well thought through strategy of the province would go a long way in combating incidences of suspected fraud and corruption. NEHAWU condemns the careless manner in which the provincial government handled the case of the 19 infections from the Glen Grey Provincial Hospital that were tossed around and the usage of a B&B in the rural village of Cala as an isolation site to quarantine infected patients without the knowledge of the Department of Health. We hold a strong view that the Department of Health should have played a central and leading role in ensuring that the matter was properly handled. The department also has the important task of ensuring that procurement and distribution of all material resources such as PPE’s for all workers run smoothly so that workers are protected at all material times.

NEHAWU therefore makes a call to the Premier to immediately investigate all the processes that the departments of Health and Transport followed including the recent public spats in the media. The engagements that NEHAWU has held with various Heads of departments in Health, Social Development, Education and the office of the Premier have not produced any positive results in so far as proper coordination in terms of strategy and management of procurement, distribution and monitoring of PPE’s to staff members in all facilities that provide essential services.

We have directed all our members not to risk their lives and not work without proper PPE’s when attending to all cases of suspected COVID-19 patients. NEHAWU members are directed to insist at all levels that priority testing be given to healthcare workers in all the healthcare institutions across the province. All workers that are exposed to an unsafe environment must not continue to attend to patients without knowing their own health status first.

We are well aware that in the meeting between the Minister of Health and the leadership of the national union it was agreed that workers would not be forced to work without PPE’s and no employer must punish such workers and all punitive measures must be immediately halted.

The department must immediately set up Health and Safety Committees as prescribed by the Act in all institutions, districts and at the head office levels. All the information in respect to COVID-19 must be verified by such committees before it is processed and made public in order to prevent misleading and or distorted statements on the prevailing situations in government institutions. 

NEHAWU welcomes the new appointments made by the Premier yesterday to fill the positions of the Director General of the provincial government and also Heads of Administration in the Departments of Sport and Transport respectively. We hope to find the Director General immediately playing the co-ordination role that is urgently needed in the province and lead the social cluster departments in developing a provincial intervention strategy on COVID-19 for immediate and long-term prevention planning methods.

The plan must also run concurrently with the new government interventions that were announced by the President to mitigate the financial strain experienced by various sectors of our society. We also want to reiterate our position that public servants deserve to get their salary increase in line with the PSCBC Resolution 1 of 2018 especially clause 3.3.

An urgent call is also made to the Department of Health to immediately attend to all healthcare institutions and emergency medical services that are currently experiencing shortages of quality PPE’s and transport challenges especially in the Nelson Mandela Metro, Buffalo City, Chris Hani and OR Tambo Regions. We call on the provincial government to immediately put measures in place to protect our members and workers. Failure to protect workers including forcing them to work in an unsafe environment is tantamount to murder. In this regard, we will not stand idle while breadwinners are recklessly exposed to the virus. We will use all resources available at our disposal to defend our members against reckless and intransigent employers.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat

Miki Jaceni (Provincial Secretary) at 082 4552745 email: