Thandiswa Yaphi, Treasurer General of Black First Land First.
By Yerushka Chetty
A few years ago I was part of a protest with the #BLF26 at the Public Protector’s Office (under Advocate Thuli Madonsela) and I had the unfortunate experience of being sent to Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre for 7 nights. I survived, but the experience was pretty traumatizing on multiple levels.
This morning (18 May 2020) I spoke to my leader, Comrade Thandiswa Yaphi, who is currently quarantined in maternity ward 63 at the Baragwanath Hospital for 3 days now.
She has managed to survive the night even though the nurses had gone on strike yesterday after 2 patients in the maternity ward tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. She also managed to get 5 hours of sleep last night because all the mothers in the ward, who were sleeping on chairs and benches for the previous 2 nights, were now given stretcher beds thanks to the intervention of Black First Land First (BLF). She said that all the patients, having been exposed to the virus in the ward, will be tested for possible infections today.
I asked Cde Thandiswa a question I was dreading this morning: are you given facilities to bath or wash up?
This is her reply/our conversation:
[05/18, 05:37] Yerushka: Are you given facilities to bath
[05/18, 05:38] Thandiswa Tel: There are facilities but there is no hot water
[05/18, 05:38] Thandiswa Tel: Which we complained about yesterday
[05/18, 05:38] Thandiswa Tel: I mean corona wants hot things
[05/18, 05:38] Yerushka: Eish 😧it’s like prison
[05/18, 05:39] Yerushka: Your right the plan should be to keep body warm
[05/18, 05:39] Thandiswa Tel: But here even taps are not closing. Toilets don’t flush properly and we have to take water from the tap to flush at times
[05/18, 05:40] Yerushka: This is ridiculous
[05/18, 05:40] Thandiswa Tel: If you find warm water by chance in the bathtub it lasts for an hour or less
[05/18, 05:41] Thandiswa Tel: And I told them yesterday that this is ridiculous
[05/18, 05:43] Yerushka: I did my time in jail you doing your time at Baragwanath hospital.. you will get through this stay focused and try schedule time in your day or every few hrs to practice relaxing you muscles in your body .. to help you towards birth. But so long I’ll write about the conditions you guys face
[05/18, 05:45] Thandiswa Tel: True it’s the same but in different ways. Please do and thank you.
The unsanitary conditions faced by mothers in Baragwanath Hospital is very similar to what I faced at the awaiting trial cell while in prison.
We hear of how Covid-19 is spread more easily when people’s body temperatures drop and they lack proper nutrition. We also hear about how Covid-19 is said to spread from feaces and that toilets must be flushed and sanitized to stop the spread of the virus.
Hospitals, of all places, should be leading us in these practices. While private hospitals may be ethical in their practices around sanitation, public hospitals unfortunately are characterized by unsanitary conditions where the impoverished majority feel unsafe.
The government claims to be ready for the Covid-19 crisis, but their hospitals don’t have warm water, flushing toilets, sufficient beds, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, enough staff, nutrition to strengthen the immune systems of patients, and sufficient capacity to deal with the challenges of the crisis, more especially with regards to maternity cases.
Why are no funds allocated from the R500 billion Covid-19 relief package announced by President Ramaphosa to address the crisis in the maternity wards? If pregnant women and new borns are treated with such State contempt that they are currently experiencing, imagine what the other patients are facing😧
Today, let’s hope that testing will take place early and women in the maternity ward will be given the necessary medical attention.