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Vacant land where ‘90% ready’ Covid-19 hospital supposed to be? No, South African MP mixes up her hospitals

A piece of land where a 200-bed field hospital was reported to have been built in Rustenburg, a town in South Africa’s North West province, is still empty. That’s according to a Facebook post from 6 August 2020. 

“Hers the reason you can't smoke… You see this open plot of land. You not seeing right, actually there is a field hospital with 200 beds standing there,” the post reads.

“NDZ knows this and for this reason trying to keep people out of hospitals because there are no hospitals.”

NDZ is shorthand for cooperative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She has had a high profile during the Covid-19 crisis for her role in announcing sometimes unpopular measures to curb the outbreak.

Attached to the post are two photos of an empty plot of land, as well as an official-looking document and a screenshot of what seems to be a Facebook post by the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s largest opposition party.

The document appears to be an answer to a parliamentary question on the number of field hospitals built in each province since 1 March 2020. 

A highlighted item near the end lists Maseve Field Hospital in Rustenburg, North West as “90% ready” and “with 200 beds”.

The government has built several temporary field hospitals for Covid-19 patients. Operational hospitals include one at Nasrec in Gauteng province and another at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in the Western Cape. 

Do the photos show empty land where Maseve field hospital, reported as “90% ready”, should be? We checked. 


‘What’s going on?’

The photos originally appeared in a tweet by Siviwe Gwarube, a Democratic Alliance member of parliament, on her verified Twitter account.

On 6 August Gwarube posted them with the comment: “In June Minister of Health, @DrZweliMkhize told me the NW Maseve Field Hospital is 90% complete incl the 200 beds in Rustenburg. This morning I visited the provincial hospital and the field hospital and it remains an empty field and no construction is happening. What’s going on?”

Dr Zweli Mkhize is South Africa’s minister of health.

The tweet has since been deleted but screenshots have been posted on Facebook. 

Also on 6 August, the Democratic Alliance repeated Gwarube’s claim in a Facebook post using the same photos.

“In June Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize told the DA that the North West Maseve Field Hospital is 90% complete including the 200 beds in Rustenburg. This was in response to our parliamentary question,” the post reads.

“This morning the DA Shadow Minister of Health, Siviwe Gwarube visited the provincial hospital and the field hospital, it remains an empty field and no construction is happening. What’s going on?”

Maseve mine field hospital opened 1 July

But a Google search reveals that the 200-bed Maseve Field hospital is functional and was opened on 1 July. 

An article on the Mining Review website from 2 July reports that the hospital, at Maseve mine, was built in a partnership between the North West health department and mining company Royal Bafokeng Platinum.

On 1 July Royal Bafokeng issued a press statement announcing the opening of the hospital. And the North West health department has tweeted a video of the completed facility.

On 7 August the North West government tweeted a response to Gwarube’s claim, posting photos of the hospital’s opening. 

“NorthWestHealth has noted with disbelief [the] attempt by the Democratic Alliance MP Ms Siviwe Gwarube to deliberately mislead the public about the Maseve Field Hospital in Rustenburg,” the tweet reads.

“The 200 bed Maseve Field Hospital is operational and was officially opened by North West Premier Professor Job Mokgoro on Wednesday, 1 July 2020,” it added.

“A site on the JST hospital grounds, which Ms Gwarube visited, is being prepared to accommodate 300 bed field hospital with the remaining 200 beds going to Moses Kotane Hospital.”

Other Twitter users have posted photos of the hospital and reported being there.

Call for retraction

The national department of health has since called on Gwarube to retract her claim. 

Gwarube has acknowledged that the Maseve field hospital is operational. She has since tweeted that she was speaking of a 300-bed field hospital planned next to the Job Shimankana Tabane (JST) provincial hospital in Rustenburg.

But her earlier tweets and the parliamentary reply she included in them clearly refer to the 200-bed Maseve mine field hospital. The hospital has been operational for more than a month. – Naledi Mashishi


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