The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has dismissed as “disingenuous” Old Mutual’s announcement last week that it will provide free cover worth R4 billion for South Africa’s 430,000 registered healthcare workers.
In a statement on Monday, the party said Old Mutual’s announcement is “aimed at maximising public relations” because “not even 90 percent of the R4 billion would have been used” by the time the free cover ends in December.
It said, “If Old Mutual is serious about contributing to the fight against COVID-19, they must put the R4 billion into things that would prevent the death of workers or increase their salary benefits.”
‘Show appreciation while they are alive’
In its announcement last week, the insurer said the cover “is neither a product nor a policy and no premiums will be recovered on it.”
“Instead, the cover will be freely accessible to registered healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic who are selflessly working to ensure the wellbeing of impacted South Africans everywhere, every day.
“[It] includes a R10,000 sum which becomes payable in the event of death of qualifying healthcare workers, and is intended to provide relief to families who may have to deal with the tragic loss of a loved one during this period. The cover has no exclusions, and will include death related to any cause.”
However, the EFF rejected “the idea of waiting for people to die before helping them.” It added, “We should not wait for healthcare workers to die before showing our appreciation for the self-sacrifice they demonstrate. All contributions should aim to prevent them from death itself or show our appreciation to them whilst they are alive.”
‘Grandstanding for PR’
The party said available evidence points towards most healthcare workers recovering in the event they contract the virus.
“Old Mutual, together with their puppet board chairperson Trevor Manuel, are just grandstanding for public relations purposes,’ the EFF said.
Old Mutual defended its contribution in an emailed response to Current Affairs ZA, saying according to global figures, healthcare workers are among those highly at risk of contracting the virus.
“Whilst we do not anticipate that all 430,000 healthcare workers will die as a result of COVID-19, as an insurer, we have taken a decision to provide adequate cover nonetheless to support them and their families, and without any exclusion to the cause of death,” the company’s spokesperson Tabby Tsengiwe said.
Besides the free cover, the insurer also announced a R50 million pledge “towards relief efforts that address immediate educational needs, hygiene awareness and nutritional support.”
It also pledged R40 million towards small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and service provider support during this period.
As of Sunday, 12 April, South Africa had 2,173 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 25 South Africans losing their lives.