South Africa’s health minister has warned that it is not up to ordinary citizens to enforce the country’s immigration law.
Joe Phaahla was visiting a hospital in Pretoria where protesters from the controversial group Operation Dudula have been trying to stop foreign nationals from getting treatment.
Operation Dudula has been accused of xenophobia, but its members say foreign nationals are putting a strain on the country’s health system.
Mr Phaahla told journalists that a growing number of people from neighbouring countries – and as far away as India – were coming to South Africa for treatment.
And he said if that continued, South Africa would reach a stage where it could not cope.
But he stressed that the constitution was clear about the right of anyone who lived in the country to access healthcare.
Protesters have continued to demand, in defiance of a court order, that people prove their nationality before entering the hospital.
It’s alleged people with darker skin tones have been targeted and forced to prove they can speak a local language.
Earlier on Thursday, violence broke out between Operation Dudula members and counter-protesters outside the hospital.
Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the two groups.
The government does not record the number of foreign nationals using health facilities. But there is increasing concern in South Africa about the impact of undocumented immigrants on the country’s health system.
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