A race row has broken out in South Africa after health officials advertised for 100 new doctors, but did not allow white medics to apply for specialist roles.
The health department in the KwaZulu-Natal province expanded its registrar programme for 2019 from 314 to 414, but aimed to fill the new posts with only black candidates.
Health bosses said the move was implemented to redress the country’s historical racial imbalance of Apartheid that saw most high-ranking positions filed by white doctors.
Campaigners and human rights activists have branded the recruitment policy ‘discriminatory, unconstitutional and racist’.
Leaked documents show the department wanted to train a total of 366 black doctors and had already recruited 32 Indian, 12 white and four mixed race registrars, but need a further 100 black medics to meet employment equity targets.
The registrar programme trains doctors to become specialists over a four-year period.
Ncumisa Mafunda, a spokeswoman for the health department, said historical redress was a ‘government imperative’ and ‘the morally and socially right thing to do’.
She told TimesLIVE: ‘South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal, remains an unequal society with limited opportunities for self-development for those who were historically oppressed.
‘This means 238 posts must be filled with [black] Africans to take the current 128 filled posts to the target of 366. This implies that the 100 new posts must go to Africans in terms of the targets, else if there are no suitable Africans, the posts must be re-advertised.
‘After difficulties were experienced in recruiting black African candidates for these posts, a deviation was sought from the accounting officer and, out of a total of 77 registrar posts, 21 posts will be offered to non-Black Africans.’
But Mary de Haas, a member of Medical Rights Advocacy Network (Meran) said that historical redress was necessary, but the policy was discriminatory and unconstitutional, blaming mismanaging of department budgets.
She told the newspaper: ‘I think it is a very bad way of doing it. It’s not really fair to sideline people who have done extremely well.
‘It [the health department] spent money sending students to Cuba instead of building local capacity, which would have sorted this out years ago.
Dr Imran Keeka, a spokesman for the Democratic Alliance KwaZulu-Natal health said a policy which ’causes the domination of one race over the other by exclusion is nothing more than an aberration of our constitutional values and is racist’.