Our friend Leviticus was sick. What’s wrong with him? No one knows. It’s his leg, someone said. So my friend Johnny (not his real name) and I had to go see him. We knew the hospital well. “Ah, Jubilee Hospital,” Johnny said when we arrived.
He used to bring activists shot by the apartheid police here in the late 1980s. Leviticus is a dear man to us. He is much older, just over 60 now. In the 1970s he was a taxi operator and a gangster.
In the 1980s he found, or had been found by, the struggle against apartheid. He became a well-known activist in our area and got caught up in hundreds of demonstrations.
In 1985, he was arrested for public violence after a protest march, convicted and sentenced to six months in jail. He came back from prison with a certificate in theology and a fierce determination that the ANC would be in power within a few years.
He was right. In 1994, Leviticus declared that the struggle was over and he became a taxi queue marshal.
He never again went near a political meeting except to sit and reminisce about the good old days and how he used to evade the cops in his Ford Cortina. He is a great raconteur, with a razor sharp sense of humour.
He makes you laugh as he tells you about being tortured by the security branch.
He makes you laugh about everything. So we arrived at Jubilee on a Sunday at about 7pm. It was hot. At the emergency entrance a security guard was shouting at relatives of sick and injured people. No medical staff was in sight.
A man lay groaning on the floor. Apparently visiting hours is 6pm to 7pm. We had been made to believe it was 7pm to 8pm. The security people shouted at us to leave.
We walked through the hospital to the ward where Leviticus was. Dustbins piled high with rubbish greeted us. Hordes of flies pummeled themselves against the rubbish.
When we reached the ward patients sat outside, right next to the rubbish bins, to get a bit of air and cool themselves down. Many had stripped off to their trousers, holding on to their drips.
Leviticus was among them, sitting on an iron bench next to a man whose face was smeared with a white ointment. Leviticus had a massive, dirty bandage on his foot. He said the toe was cut off three weeks ago. It was difficult to see the dressing – it was black from dirt.
Flies totally covered it. He said he was tired of beating them off. “They say they are going to cut my leg off tomorrow,” he said. “Why?” “I don’t know. The doctor said it is vr ot ( rotting),” he answered.
Leviticus has gout, and he intimates that he has diabetes.
Yet no one seems to have explained to him why exactly his toe was cut off, and why his entire leg was about to be chopped off. A look inside the ward was horrific. Patients lay groaning on beds.
A patient who felt too hot lay on the floor, trying to get cool from the tiles. It stank. Flies buzzed around faces. We left. Johnny was nearly crying about the conditions at the hospital. In the car he told me a funny story.
His mother had a heart problem. George Mkhari and Steve Biko hospitals kept on discharging her –while she was still in pain – to essentially go home and die. His family managed to get her to Groote Schuur in Cape Town.
She was operated on, in clean surroundings, and is today fit as a fiddle. “Health is a provincial government responsibility. So why don’t you vote for the DA in Gauteng and see if they can fix health h e re ? ” I asked him.
He looked at me as though I was crazy. The next day Leviticus called. He had good news, he said.
They were not going to cut off his leg. They were going to discharge him. “But you are still in pain?” I asked. “Yes , ” he answered. “Are you cured?” “No, but they will give me pills.”
On Saturday, I got another call. He had been readmitted to the same fly-ridden hospital. This is the price our society is paying for the terrible leadership we have in the corrupt Jacob Zuma.
The rot he represents has reached every walk of life – the schools, the hospitals, the institutions of state and of accountability.
If Zuma does not go to jail for selling our state to the Gupta family, why should a cleaner at Jubilee be fired for not clearing out the dustbins? This is the culture of Zuma. This is the price of Zuma. And please don’t tell me that one man cannot be responsible for everything.
He easily can, and he is, unless you are looking at things through a Guptafied lens.