Medical insurance is a good idea but not necessary.
Walk into any South African clinic, hospital or practise and request to be treated. If you can't produce South African 'Medical Aid' membership (which you obviously won't be) you will be asked to pay cash (local currency only) or with a credit card (Visa/Mastercard). How much will depend on the nature of the facility and the following:
If you say nothing about being a foreigner you will pay the standard rates and receive a receipt and copy of your treatment report after payment. They won't quiz you about yor accent or ask for a passport.
If you show proof of your (UK) medical insurance and passport you will pay more but receive a detailed original medical report to hand to your insurer so that you may be compensated at a later time.
How do I know this? - My aunt works for a doctor and I called her 10 minutes ago...
You may need to ask for your papers because most medical clerks are too lazy to get off their backsides and walk over to the copier.
I think you can apply for short term medical insurance from a local insurer but expect to pay US-related prices. That would be the most convenient but a terrible shame because the rest of us will be paying less than a third of what you pay! ...and it's too much effort to apply anyway... especially if youre only staying a short while.
Clinics and hospitals are clean and modern for the most part - especially those in the more affluent areas... just ask any policeman or hotel receptionist for the nicest clinic in the area.
Oh and... The NHS kept me waiting for far longer at the Royal Free than you will ever have to suffer through in our waiting rooms
[This message has been edited by LuckyStriker (edited 16 February 2005).]