Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has reportedly taken a swipe at African leaders who seek medical treatment abroad.
According to NewsDay, Motsoaledi made the remarks during his address at the ongoing World Health Organisation (WHO) regional conference in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Motsoaledi said Africa was the only continent where the leaders travelled abroad for health reasons.
"I have said this before and I will say it again: We are the only continent that has its leaders seeking medical services outside the continent, outside our territory. We must be ashamed of that. This is called health tourism. We must promote our own," Motsoaledi was quoted as saying.
A BBC report said that Motsoaledi addressed the conference hours after President Robert Mugabe, who himself often made trips to Singapore for eye treatment, opened the meeting on Monday.
"Mr Mugabe had left the event by the time Mr Motsoaledi spoke," the report said.
Most African presidents, among them Mugabe, Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari, Benin's Patrice Talon, Angola's outgoing president Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Algeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika, were known for seeking medical services in Europe, Asia or in America, draining their countries’ resources and leaving ordinary people to make do with under-funded public hospitals.
According to The Conversation: "It’s well documented that politicians from across the continent go abroad for medical treatment. The reasons for exercising this choice are obvious: they lack confidence in the health systems they oversee, and they can afford the trips given that the expenses are paid for by taxpayers.
"The result is that they have little motivation to change the status quo. Medical tourism by African leaders and politicians could therefore be one of the salient but overlooked causes of Africa’s poor health systems and infrastructure."