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Picture: Gallo Images/Lefty Shivambu
Picture: Gallo Images/Lefty Shivambu

Governments have the power to decide whether people live or die when it comes to health — and your vote will determine which type of government we get. 

In South Africa, this kind of influence became especially apparent in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Mbeki government denied South Africans free HIV treatment, resulting in over 330,000 unnecessary deaths

In 2004, our government’s policy changed, resulting in the country now having the largest antiretroviral treatment in the world and people with HIV living almost as long as HIV-negative people

On 29 May — two weeks from now — your vote will determine how well South Africa’s post-election government will look after your health. That’s why it’s crucial that you know what your party says it will do about health matters.

But it’s difficult to understand what parties’ election speak really means when it’s wrapped up in long sentences, lots of jargon and many numbers. It’s even more difficult to look back later to hold newly elected leaders accountable.

Bhekisisa put together a tool to help voters make sense of it all. It cuts through the jargon of politicians’ promises and gives users the background against which to scrutinise what they say — in easy, understandable language. 

How it works

Click here to go to the tool. We show you how it works below.

You’ll see a grid that lists nine health issues and at least 15 party names. 

The analysis covers matters like rolling out universal health care and dealing with the effects of climate change, rooting out corruption in health services and tackling HIV, tuberculosis and gender-based violence. Categories on food security, social grants and the basic income grant are included as well, because being able to eat well and having enough money to live are part of building healthy nations

The party line-up in the tool includes the three with the largest representation in parliament — the ANC, DA and EFF — and at least 12 more. For newcomers or smaller players, the team looked at how commonly these parties were discussed in the media (which was used as a proxy as to how much interest there would be in the organisation).

Users can decide in how much depth they want to compare parties’ promises:

  • Look at the landing page to get a quick overview of what parties cover — a green tick means the issue is mentioned in the manifesto; a black cross means it’s not.

  • Click on a tick or cross in a party column to see what they say (or don’t say) about that specific issue. You can go back to the tool from there.

  • To see what a party says about each of the nine issues in one go, click on the first category block for the party. This will take you to a page where you can read everything at once. Again, you can link back to the full tool to look at another party.

  • To read a party’s full, original manifesto, click on the link shown on their analysis page.

Analysing the manifestos and unpacking the full picture is a big undertaking, so Bhekisisa will update the tool every day or two in the run-up to the election. Eight parties’ manifesto analyses are already included. 

Why use this tool?

The short answer is to help you vote for what you believe is right.

South Africa’s seventh round of democratic elections will be as pivotal for the country’s future as the first one in 1994 — as any one party achieving a comfortable majority might not be as easy as before. There have never been more players to choose from — and everyone wants a slice of the pie.

“The dynamics between politics, science and medicine continue,” Malegapuru Makgoba, academic, immunologist and most recently South Africa’s health ombud, told Mia Malan in an interview in April for Bhekisisa’s monthly TV show, Health Beat.

The only way to make sure that politics don’t take over scientific thought is to know what politicians’ promises mean. 

Use the analysis tool to know what you’ll be voting for, not only for whom. 

This story was produced by the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism. Sign up for the newsletter.

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