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As I write this editorial, the senior officials at the Department of Health (Western Cape) have received a letter from a respected surgeon at the University of Cape Town. This letter claims that the establishment of robotic programmes at the Groote Schuur and Tygerberg hospitals represents a “fruitless and wasteful” expenditure. Is there any basis for this assertion? What is the background to this? And should the state sector in South Africa have robotic surgical programmes? This editorial aims to address these questions.