Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe has disputed reports that he is in a private hospital.
“I am in a public hospital and I am being taken care of very well here. I have never been to a private hospital, that must be clear,” Mantashe said in a telephone call to The Citizen on Wednesday.
The minister read several signs over the phone to prove that he was indeed in a public hospital that was operated by the Gauteng department of health in Pretoria.
“Unless this hospital has become a private hospital, but it has always been under the Gauteng government. I am here because this is the area where I work,” he added.
Mantashe said he was transported straight to the Pretoria-based hospital which he mentioned, but requested The Citizen not to name the facility for security reasons.
The minister was hospitalised when his wife, Nolwandle, got concerned about his health condition after the couple tested positive for Covid-19.
Also hospitalised was Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, who also tested positive for Covid-19. Nxesi was advised by his doctor to go to hospital.
Nxesi’s office Wednesday evening also contacted The Citizen to say the Minister was also in a public hospital in Pretoria where he was admitted after testing positive for Covid-19.
“Minister Nxesi would like to stress that he had always been attending at a public hospital for all his medical needs,” a senior official in the department said.
No further details were given pertaining to Nxesi hospitalisation.
Both ministers are known to suffer from diabetes, which put them at high risk.
As soon as news of Nxesi’s hospitalisation was announced by Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, the politicians came under criticism for allegedly choosing to go to private hospitals instead of public hospitals.
Congress of the People national spokesperson, Dennis Bloem, said this did not set a good example.
Former trade unionist and ex-Gauteng MPL, Ndzipho Kalipa, criticised the ministers and strongly called for them to go to public hospitals, especially because they were leaders of the SACP. He said they should practise what they preached.
But Mantashe was adamant that he had never been admitted to a private facility. “To say I was in a private hospital and I am enjoying nice food is not a true reflection of what is happening, in fact it’s completely wrong.”
Yesterday political analyst Prof Dirk Kotze said in the absence of a minister government’s functioning should not be affected, because the relevant deputy minister should be able to fill the gap. Besides, the director-general as the head of department, was the one running the day to day affairs of a department.
The expert said the fact that ministers contracted the virus like everybody else indicated that they work with the people, and that was right, but they need to be careful by keeping social distances and wearing the necessary protective gear.
Several other ministers, deputy ministers and three premiers also tested positive for the virus, but some had since recovered. However, it’s still feared that many of the Cabinet ministers are at high risk should they contract the disease, as the majority of them were over 60 years of age, including President Cyril Ramaphosa.