Dr Mathume
Joseph “Joe”  Phaahla (64), announced by
President Cyril Ramaphosa as the new Minister of Health to succeed Dr Zweli
Mkhize in the presidential cabinet reshuffle broadcast last night, is no
stranger to ministerial obligations having held several senior administrative
posts before becoming Deputy-Minister of Health in May 2014.

His deputy
will now be Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health chair, Dr Sibongiseni
Dhlomo, who purportedly was among the front runners for the top job along with Limpopo MEC for Health, Dr Phophi Ramatuba.

Dr Mkhize’s
formal resignation as minister, after a two-month suspension for fraud
allegations, was announced by the president at the beginning of last night’s
presentation.

An MBChB
graduate from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (1983), Dr Phaahla practiced in
various hospitals in KZN, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo until April 1994
during which time he became a member of the Provincial Executive Committee of
ANC in Limpopo Province.

A spell as
the first
 MEC for Health and Social
Development in Limpopo followed before a switch to
 MEC for Education, Sports and Culture in the
province – a move which ultimately saw him serving as chief executive officer
of (CEO) of the S.A. Sports Commission and then Director-General of the 2010
FIFA World Cup Government Coordinating Unit.

Elected to
the National Executive Committee of the ANC in December 2007, other party responsibilities
have since included that of head of the ANC Presidency responsible for
coordinating the office of the President, Deputy President and National
Chairperson during election campaign from November 2008 to 30 April 2009.

He was Deputy Minister of Rural development and Land Reform from 11 May 2009
until 31 October 2010 and was the Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture from
November 2010 until his Deputy-Minister of Health appointment in May 2014.

“Being a
medical doctor who has worked in public health institutions in several
provinces brings experience that enables him to better understand the
challenges the health sector as well as healthcare workers face,” SA Medical
Association (SAMA) chair, Dr Angelique Coetzee, has noted in a welcoming
statement just released.

“We are therefore
pleased that he has been given this new responsibility by the President,” she
adds, acknowledging the enormous challenges he faces in his new role.

“Our health sector is struggling, and our healthcare workers are physically and
emotionally drained. We would urge Dr Phaahla listen to the concerns of those
closest to the health coalface and to work with them in resolving the current
struggles.”