Southern Africa: Namibia Reviews Free Healthcare to Angolans

20 September 2019

The Namibian government has agreed to finalise a new agreement that will reconsider the current arrangement that allows patients from Namibia and Angola to receive free public healthcare in both countries.

The information ministry announced this in a statement issued yesterday on Cabinet decisions taken on Tuesday this week.

Attorney general Albert Kawana was tasked with finalising several agreements with Angola.

"The draft memorandum of understanding on health cooperation is to supersede the existing technical cooperation agreement that includes treating patients with communicable diseases (tuberculosis, malaria, HIV and AIDS) for free in both countries' public health facilities," Cabinet said.

The Cabinet decision comes at a time when Namibian officials are complaining about the burden placed on Namibia's budget and health system by Angolan patients.

The weekly Confidénte newspaper reported in August this year that close to 50 000 Angolans had been treated at institutions in a number of regions of Namibia at little or no cost. According to the report, the 50 000 - for this year only - were treated in the Omusati (21 800), Ohangwena (17 110), Oshana (6550), Khomas (740) and 548 in the two Kavango regions.

The issue of Angolans receiving free treatment is not new.

In fact, Namibia's first health minister, Nickey Iyambo, suggested four years ago that the government was considering granting Angolans the same status as Namibians in terms of accessing state healthcare.

He made these remarks during a parliamentary debate on the health bill, which was tabled by the then health minister Richard Kamwi in the National Assembly.

Iyambo said Angolan patients should be given the same status as Namibians at state hospitals, considering "what Angolans went through because of us".

Angolan patients are classified as private patients, and the new health bill states that a non-Namibian patient may only be classified as a state patient with the written approval of the permanent secretary.

"Lets us treat Angolans, considering that we also lived in Angola and enjoyed their best medical facilities," Iyambo said then.

The decision to grant Angolans the same status as Namibians did not sit well with the then Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) member of parliament Peter Naholo, who asked during that parliamentary debate whether it would be affordable.

"Yes, I know we lived in Angola, we were assisted by Angolans while we were there as freedom fighters. But I am afraid the honourable minister is making a dangerous proposal to allow Angolans to be treated as Namibians," he stated.

Cabinet directives also touched on criminals in prisons.

It says "to fast-track the process of ratification of the agreement on the transfer of convicted offenders signed on 5 April 2018,".

It added that the two nations should exchange information on the number of people in prisons in both countries.

The agreement included one which allows nationals of the two countries to serve their sentences in their own countries.

Other decisions relating to the two countries include speeding up the implementation of the agreement on the construction of bridges at Rundu-Calai, Nkurenkuru-Cuagar and Gciriku.

"(The relevant ministry) should also notify the government of Angola on the status regarding the suspension of Air Namibia flights between Windhoek and Luanda," the Cabinet statement added.

The statement also included information on renewing partnerships between the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and media outlets in Angola such as Radio Nacional de Angola (RNA) and Televisao Publica de Angola (TPA).

Cabinet likewise directed officials to renew the relationship between the Namibia Press Agency (Nampa) and Agencia Angola Press.

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