Updated 05 February 2019

Dispute arises over Holy Cross Hospital’s nurses’ homes

The announcement that the title deeds for the land occupied by Holy Cross Hospital in Flagstaff, Eastern Cape, are owned by the Anglican Church is causing conflict.

While the nurses at the Holy Cross Hospital in Flagstaff, who have been cooped up in hospital dormitories while the residences next to the hospital are renovated, look forward to moving back, a problem over their return appears to be emerging.

The nurses were vacated from their accommodation a year ago. Now it seems the Anglican Church, the Holy Cross branch of nursing union Nehawu, traditional leaders and the community are at loggerheads, following the announcement by the Ingquza Traditional Council spokesperson that title deeds for the land occupied by Holy Cross Hospital are owned by the church.

Land owned by Anglican Church

In January last year, nurses residing in the hospital’s trust houses were evicted by the church in order for the houses to be refurbished. Renovations are still underway, with the general understanding being that the nurses will move back into the renovated houses and pay rental to the church. But the community and Nehawu are not happy about the Anglican Church owning the land that is occupied by hospital, claiming that the land belonged to the hospital. Previously trust houses were built on the property by the Department of Health to accommodate its staff.

Nehawu has said that traditional leaders helped the church acquire the title deeds, and this had not been done in the right way.

Mthandwa Zitha, Nehawu’s Holy Cross branch chairperson said they were relieved that their members would soon have decent accommodation, but accused traditional leadership of assisting the church out of own interest.

“The land that is occupied by the hospital, including the trust houses, was communal land. With the assistance of traditional leaders, the church managed to acquire the title deed and the traditional healers have an interest in financial gains from the rentals to be paid by tenants for the refurbished trust houses,” Zitha said.

'Traditional leaders cannot do as they please'

When the church issued eviction notices to the nurses, the traditional leaders helped evict those who were reluctant to leave.

“The traditional leaders were behind the eviction of our members. While the letter of eviction was issued, we reported the matter to the department and were advised to meet with traditional leadership. However, the matter was never discussed at the traditional council,” he said.

Zitha added that the trust houses were built by the Department of Health some years ago to accommodate nurses working at the hospital.

Local resident Dumisani Mbangatha said the church is community-owned and therefore the land belonged to the community. He went on to say the church and traditional leaders should not be making business deals about the land.

“Traditional leaders cannot do as they please. The church is community-owned, therefore decisions taken by the church that involve the community should be discussed at a meeting level. However, the church failed to do so and just issued an eviction letter.”

'Total nonsense'

Mbangatha said the community we were not alerted that the land occupied by the hospital belonged to the church. He said this was a clear sign that the church was busy making business deals.

Ingquza Traditional Council spokesperson Chief Thandisizwe Mgwili denied the allegations raised by the Nehawu and the community

“Anyone who has a query about the church holding a title deed should raise their query with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. The Anglican Church is the rightful owner of the land that is occupied by the hospital. The issue raised about having any interest in financial gain is total nonsense.”– Health-e News.

Image credit: iStock


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