Health workers march in Gqeberha to demand permanent jobs

By Thamsanqa Mbovane

12 April 2024

NUPSAW Eastern Cape secretary Mzi Nkata (sitting on the ground) led a march by Community Health Workers in Gqeberha on Friday. The workers, who also marched in solidarity with health workers in Gaza, are asking to be insourced. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

About 100 community health workers (CHWs) marched to the Department of Health’s offices in Gqeberha on Friday afternoon.

They are demanding to be given permanent jobs by the department, saying that only offering them contracts is exploitation.

The march was led by the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW) with members of the NGO, Cry of the Xcluded, and other local groups. The marchers also carried a Palestinian flag, reaffirming support for health workers in war-torn Gaza.

They were dressed in their union T-shirts, carrying flags and placards as they sang freedom songs on busy streets of Gqeberha.

NUPSAW provincial secretary, Mzi Nkata, said that 98% of CHWs are women and are often the breadwinners in their households. Nkata said it was unfair to only offer contracts to CHWs for one to three months, without any compensation for overtime. “These workers also cannot complain because they run the risk of not having their contracts renewed.”

Care worker Nonkululeko Zamxaka from Soweto on Sea said she earns R4,480 per month. Her duties include testing dozens of patients for HIV for about four hours per day at Zwide Clinic.

She complained that when community health workers retire or die after many years of service, all they get from the health department is a thank you letter.

She said getting proper uniforms for work is also a challenge. “You submit your uniform sizes this year and after four years they will start giving you that uniform. By this time you might need a bigger one,” she said.

The workers handed over a list of demands to district manager Sonia Lupondwana, who was given seven days to respond.

Other demands included that community health workers be respected and recognised for the vital work they do in communities. If they can’t be insourced, they want the department to ensure that their contacts are renewed timeously and without issues.