The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA Shadow Minister of Health, Patricia Kopane MP, during the debate on Human Rights Day.
When Mahatma Gandhi said that “[a] nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”, he was referring to those less fortunate and vulnerable members of our society, who are unable to care for themselves.
It is once again the time of the year, when we reflect on the journey that all of us as South Africans have walked, to achieve the democracy that we have today.
And let me say that again for the benefit of the Honourable Members sitting on my right. It is time to reflect on the journey that ALL OF US have walked, not just those in the ANC.
This hard-won democracy was fought for by many South Africans. Not only those in the ANC, like they would like us to believe.
Let me remind you, that in 1994, an overwhelming majority of people voted for a new Parliament and a new government. The ANC is not a symbol of our democracy; this multi-party government is a representation of the hopes and dreams of all South Africans.
This Parliament is the symbol of that democracy.
This is why we have a Constitution with the founding principles of South Africa belonging to all who live in it; it does not only belong to the ANC.
As we prepare to celebrate Human Rights Day we need to understand and remind ourselves that our democracy came as a result of great sacrifices and the combined determination of many heroes who walked before us.
The fearless fighter for a democratic and free South Africa, Helen Suzman, was one of those many heroes who we must also remember.
She was the lone voice in this Parliament, fighting for the rights and freedoms of all South Africans.
But more than two decades later, there are still millions of South Africans who are still suffering from the injustices of the past under an ANC government.
For them, the hopes and dreams of a democratic South Africa remain just a dream.
There is a saying that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it again. It is now clear that the ANC decided to have retrograde amnesia and continue the unjust treatment of our people.
Today I stand here with more questions than answers.
I stand here before you, remembering the days of the apartheid security police who use to terrorize young people in my neighbourhood. And I am reminded of the same brutality when I recall the callous murder of scores of mineworkers in Marikana.
For the families of those who were killed, there is little to celebrate. Not a single leader in the ANC has stepped forward and taken accountability for these killings.
How can we celebrate human rights day, with any sense of pride while there are so many families mourning the deaths of their loved ones, under the ANC’s watch on a daily basis.
These are the weakest members of our society, through whose eyes we will be judged.
And in the same manner as how the Apartheid government covered up those brutalities, so too is this ANC government.
Speaker, the heartless manner in which 143 members of our society were treated in the Life Esidimeni tragedy is a horror movie that will remain in our memories for years to come.
The reality is that the 143 patients who are among vulnerable member of our society were brutally killed at the hands of those who mandated to care and to protect them.
No government anywhere in the world has treated vulnerable people, in such a manner.
For the families of the deceased, they have very little to celebrate.
Once again, not a single leader in the ANC has stepped forward and apologised or took accountability for the deaths of these innocent people.
Instead, we see those who are responsible like Qedani Mahlangu are protected and walking side by side with President Cyril Ramaphosa while she should be walking to jail.
One would expect, given all that has happened, that this ANC government is remorseful for the Life Esidimeni incident, but instead, they have learnt nothing and they feel nothing.
Just yesterday, MEC Gwen Ramokgopa, announced that 44 former Life Esidimeni mental health patients have still not been located and 9 of the missing patients are receiving grants from SASSA, but have not yet been traced.
And then there is the oncology crisis in KwaZulu-Natal.
The lack of access to oncology services for cancer patients in the province has potentially resulted in the deaths of more than 400 hundreds oncology patients.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) report found that the Department of Health, both Provincially and Nationally, failed to take reasonable measures to progressively realize the right to have access to health care and that it violates the rights to human dignity and life of the patients.
Yet no one was held accountable, why are we celebrating Human Rights Day?
Lastly, the current outbreak of listeriosis has claimed more than 180 lives and the total number of the infections stands at more than 900.
Again those responsible never face justice.
They should all be held accountable and the must be criminally charged.