South Africa stops employing Zimbabwean health workers, Here is Why
Zimbabwean nurses and doctors who had dreamed of getting employment in South Africa have reacted with dismay to the news that South Africa is rejecting their applications on the grounds that their country was facing a staff crisis due to migration.
A letter dated September 20, signed by South Africa’s public health director of workplace management, Sindile Sodladla, stated that Zimbabwe was listed in the category of countries that the Department of Health should not recruit from.
It said the government was obliged to adhere to “all the relevant protocols” between members states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the AU and the World Health Organization (WHO) “as it pertains to the recruitment of health professionals from developing countries”.
“These agreements, protocols and recruitment codes were designed to prevent the uncontrolled recruitment of health professionals from countries where the public health system is faced with huge staff shortages, particularly with regard to health professional occupations.
“In view of the above, the department regrets to inform you that your application for endorsement towards registration and employment in South Africa was not successful,” reads the letter.
The applicants were advised to familiarise themselves with the immigration legislation and not to depart to South Africa to promote their application for support as “the department will not be in a position to reconsider your application, once you have arrived in the country”.
Desperate health-care workers were feeling anxious and discouraged, said the chairperson of the Migrant Workers’ Association-SA (MWA-SA), Butholezwe Nyathi.
“The health-care workers who have expressed their interest or are in the process of writing the South African Nurses Council (SANC) examinations are discouraged by this development as they feel it will protract their registration process.
Some feel that they will soon be receiving the same letters they have seen circulating, so they are very anxious.
“When I wrote the examinations in 2005, we heard about this protocol that was in place during the apartheid era. It is surprising that it is being reintroduced by the democratic government that is also proposing (a) SADC work visa in the White Paper on international migration.”
“Now that this letter is out and some countries like Zimbabwe, as we saw in the media, seem not to be aware of this agreement, we are waiting to hear the response of the South African government.”
He said the association would continue to lobby organised labour to create migrant desks to organise the vulnerable workers so they were protected.
Health Department spokesperson Foster Mohale said the policy did not allow the department to recruit from SADC and developing countries.
“However, SADC healthcare professionals can request the release letter from their respective country’s health ministry, certified by the embassy in Pretoria. Then they will be eligible to re-apply, and the RSA Health Department will process those applications.”
Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) spokesperson Sibongiseni Delihlazo said the sub-Saharan region was the hardest hit when it came to a shortage of healthcare workers.
He said the WHO, in conjunction with the International Council of Nurses, issued a report in April last year which looked at the state of nursing worldwide.
Globally, there was a shortage of 6 million nurses, he said, “but the shortage is most severe in the low to mid-income sub-Saharan countries”.
“The government must look into the area of satisfying health-care workers. It is sad that some healthcare workers can’t come to South Africa because of this agreement,” Delihlazo said.
“We understand that these healthcare workers are plying their trade in their countries where the conditions are really challenging for them. In fact, it’s the same challenges that our health-care workers here in South Africa are experiencing and some of them end up looking for greener pastures in the likes of the UK,” he said.