The protest started with a gathering near Odi Hospital, north of Tshwane, where speakers vowed to no longer work without pay.
In October 2013, many community health workers signed six-month agreements with the Gauteng Department of Health under which they would receive a monthly stipend of R2,500 for their work. These stipends were previously paid by the non-governmental organisations that they work for.
However, as these workers’ agreements near their expiration dates, many say they have either not received payment from Gauteng Department of Health or have been paid incorrectly.
“I cannot be expected by anyone to behave when our people are not paid,” said Gauteng AIDS NGOs Support Committee spokesperson Tendani Raseluma speaking at the 19 February protest.”We need to meet the MEC for Health and, if needs be, we can go to Luthuli House to seek support.”
Raseluma stated that if need be, workers will march on both Luthuli House and Tshwane district offices before the end of the month if payments are not rectified.
Lucky Mokone has been a voluntary HIV testing counsellor for more than a decade. He also went without pay alongside many others in 2010. Mokone admonished those among the crowd who have violated an informal strike by unpaid community workers.
‘I am surprised that some of the community health care workers are still going to work while we agreed we are now on strike until we get paid,” he said. “How do you go to work when some of you are not paid?’”
‘We need our money because we deserve it,’ Mokone told OurHealth.
Workers say that they have been asked weekly to resubmit copies of their IDs, banking details and bank statements to the Gauteng Department of Health.
OurHealth was also shown text messages from an alleged Department of Health employee asking one manager from a non-governmental organization to resubmit these documents for the health workers he supervises.
‘The people who keep on asking us these things go home and enjoy supper with their children but what about us who had nothing for … months?” said health care worker, Matsatsi Moropane.
According to Department of Health spokesperson Simon Zwane, information was requested from community health workers for verification of details submitted by the district but he said that the district had not requested this information multiple times.
In response to previous reports of non-payment, the Gauteng Department of Health said it had paid stipends for 8,173 community health workers on 6 February while payments for another 450 workers were outstanding due to inaccurate bank details, according to Gauteng Department of Health spokesperson Simon Zwane.
On 10 February, Zwane added that a further 4,194 health workers would be paid the following day, bringing all payments up-to-date save for those workers who still had not submitted accurate bank details.
The department is not aware of any outstanding delays in payment except for those that may pertain to workers with inaccurate bank details, according to Zwane. He added that the department encourages unpaid health workers to report the matter to the management of the districts in which they work.
Additional reporting by Laura Lopez Gonzalez
Read more Health-e coverage of the payment delays: