Ex-employees at the malaria control centre in Tzaneen, Limpopo, have claimed that their superiors rigged the hiring process to favour their own children and those of friends and family.
Following the September employment of approximately 40 malaria control personnel, the unemployed group contacted African Times to express their dissatisfaction.
These young adults claimed they had been employed by the Limpopo health department since 2021, and had been responsible for controlling malaria in areas surrounding Tzaneen in the Mopani District, including Giyani and Malamulele.
The group said they were assured that when their contracts ended in June of this year, they would have a chance to be hired permanently.
“The advertisements were published, and we applied enthusiastically. After that, we were interviewed, and we thought that, with our background and expertise in the field of malaria control, we did well.
“To our dismay, just half the crew was selected along with a fresh bunch of young people, most of whom only finished matric last year and had never worked a day in their life. We feel like we were placeholders for other people’s children,” said one of the former employees, who wished to remain anonymous.
Another group member expressed concern that confronting the department head-on would make it seem like they were trying to “kick food out of people’s mouths.”
“Since some have chosen to avoid trouble, it is not everyone who is demanding justice. The new employees are made up of the families of the officials and their friends, so while we are brave enough to speak to the media, we also fear that we might be hunted down.
“All we want is that the department immediately launch an investigation into the matter and that the investigation be transparent. Everyone will see what we’re talking about, because there is no longer any doubt that inexperienced relatives get employed while those of us with experience are put to the curb,” he said.
According to the ex-workers, they were part of teams of sprayers that went from house to house under the supervision of a foreman and a team leader.
“Since there is nowhere else for us to combat malaria, all of our efforts have been in vain. Since the government must handle this, the health department is our only option for gainful employment. It doesn’t make any financial sense to spend more money training the new intakes when we are ready to work,” said a third ex-worker.
The prevalence of malaria in Limpopo has been a matter of great concern for several decades, primarily due to the region’s unique environmental conditions.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, millions of Africans fall victim to malaria yearly, and the disease thrives in the continent’s hot, humid climate.
Their study, Modelling Malaria Incidence in the Limpopo Province, South Africa: Comparison of Classical and Bayesian Methods of Estimation, states that malaria is very common in Vhembe, Mopani, and Sekhukhune, as they are the province’s three hottest districts.
“Malaria cases in these districts are common, and malaria is among the leading causes of illness and death in these districts. Factors contributing to malaria incidence in Limpopo province have not been deeply investigated, aside from the general knowledge that the province is the hottest in South Africa,” states the study.
The study’s authors suggested that Vhembe and Mopani districts should receive increased funding from the South African Department of Health and Malaria Control Programme for malaria control, prevention, and elimination efforts.
Provincial Health Department spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said that while the department is unaware of the allegations, they would investigate to catch the culprits or exonerate innocent officials.
“As the department, we are not aware of those allegations because they have not been reported to us, but we would encourage that if there are issues where people feel like processes of the government have been flouted for any reason, they are encouraged to report such matters,” said Shikwambana.
“The public should know that as a department, we do have a whistleblowing policy where malfeasance can be reported. They don’t even have to divulge their personal details when reporting such”.