South Africa

Government’s NHI plan won’t win votes – BLSA CEO

Business Leadership South African CEO Busi Mavuso said the government’s plan to implement National Health Insurance (NHI) is a signalling exercise to gain favour with voters ahead of the 2024 elections – and it will not work.

Mavuso told 702’s The Money Show that the government’s NHI Bill, in its proposed form, is impossible to fund and implement. 

However, “it is as if this government intends to stride forward, somehow ignoring that this whole charade is going to collapse”.

She said some government members believe that, by putting the Bill into law, the electorate will see them positively, which will be “enough” to stay in power.

“The problem is that it will not be enough because once this thing is in the books, it will enter a painful period which will do no good for either the health system or the government.”

“National Treasury is going to be forced to appear to be attempting to find a way to fund this thing, despite the fact that there are many other demands on it and the funding of whatever other demands there are cannot be satisfied as is.”

She said the health system would also be forced to appear to be implementing this system by setting up the required boards and committees “despite the fact that its existing facilities urgently need attention and most of them fail to meet the basics”.

Busi Mavuso

While this plan will not help the government garner votes, Mavuso said the NHI Bill will have serious negative consequences.

“What it proposes – a world in which almost all of the private healthcare system is shut down and replaced with a government scheme – is impossible for anyone considering a future exposure to the South African health system, whether a worker or an investor or anyone concerned about their future access to healthcare.”

“This is a blow to confidence,” she said.

However, she thinks the most significant danger of the government trying to implement NHI is that they are creating an expectation, “and once you’ve created an expectation, people are going to hold you to it.”

Mavuso has previously said South Africans should expect more populist policies like NHI and the basic income grant from the ANC as the 2024 elections draw closer.

She said the ruling party would likely, in a bid to retain power, introduce more populist policies and interventions in the coming months.

Mavuso said the social instability South Africa is currently facing is due to people being unhappy with unmet expectations that the government set.

“Now you are adding yet another expectation you can’t meet,” she said. “I don’t know if they understand the unintended consequences of what they’re actually doing.”


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