TAC Pamphlet Explaining 4 November Court Case
Treatment Plan Timetable Now!
My Right to Know, My Right to Live March to Demand a Treatment Plan Timetable
On 19 November 2003, the Cabinet announced the Operational Plan on Comprehensive
Care and Treatment for HIV and AIDS (Operational Plan). This plan gave hope to
millions of people with HIV because it committed government to:
rolling out antiretroviral treatment that can help people with HIV to live
longer, healthier lives;
improving the public health system by hiring 22,000 additional health care
workers over five years;
providing nutritional programmes for people with HIV/AIDS; and
improving the accessibility of voluntary counselling and testing, prevention
of mother-to- child transmission of HIV and other important health programmes.
After the Plan was agreed to by Cabinet many health workers and health officials
made a great effort to make the programme a success. In Gauteng and the Western
Cape thousands of people now benefit from access to treatment. But overall the
programme has been rolled out very slowly. The Operational Plan committed to
treating over 50,000 people by March 2004. But, by October 2004, less than
15,000 people were being treated in public hospitals and clinics.
It is important that ordinary citizens are able to help government with the
implementation of the Operational Plan and that they can hold government
accountable. But this can only be done properly if we know the dates when
clinics and hospitals will begin treatment, the number of people that each
clinic or hospital will be able to treat and how many additional health-care
workers each clinic or hospital will hire to help implement the programme.
Since November 2003 the Operational Plan has referred to a document which
contains most of this information; it is called Annexure A. This document has
still not been made public.
The TAC requested Annexure A from the Minister of Health on 20 February 2004
because we believed this to be the implementation timetable. It is our right to
have this information. The South African Constitution says anyone has the right
of access to any information held by the state. But eight months later, the
Minister has not released the implementation timetable.
The TAC also wrote letters to the ANC and to the Parliamentary Portfolio
Committee on Health asking them to intervene so that we would not have to take
the Minister of Health to court to get the implementation timetable. But the
Minister still refused.
As a last resort, the TAC decided to take the Minister of Health to court to
compel her to make the implementation plan, which we understood to be Annexure
A, available. After the TAC led court papers on 18 June 2004, the Department
opposed the case and only in September 2004 responded for the first time
through an affidavit stating that Annexure A is a draft document that was never
of officially adopted. According to the Department all references to Annexure A
in the Operational Plan, were errors that they forgot to correct.
This was very surprising to the TAC because since February 2004 we were led to
believe that the implementation plan was Annexure A. There are many references
to Annexure A in the Operational Plan. Also, it has been nearly a year since
the Operational Plan was adopted by Cabinet and this is the first time that the
Department said that Annexure A was only a draft and that all references to it
in the Operational Plan were errors.
If the Department is telling the truth there are two possibilities:
(1) a new implementation timetable for the Operational Plan has been developed,
in which case government is Constitutionally obligated to make it available, or
(2) no implementation timetable exists, in which case government has a
Constitutional obligation to develop one.
Therefore the TAC is proceeding as follows:
1. On 4 November we will ask the Pretoria High Court to award us all the legal
costs for taking this case so far because it took government so long to inform
us that Annexure A was a draft. But in our court papers we explain that the
cost is not only about money, but about people s lives. Every delay by
government results in people dying before they get access to treatment.
2. In six provinces, TAC members will demonstrate that they want access to
life-saving information. For many people who need treatment and want to know
when and where it will be available, the right to know is important for their
right to live.
3. Our lawyers will still ask the department for the final implementation
a. If the department has an implementation timetable but refuses to provide it,
we will ask the courts to compel it to make it available because the
Constitution guarantees the right to access to information.
b. If there is no timetable, we will ask the courts to compel the Minister of
Health to develop one because the Constitution guarantees our rights to life,
dignity and healthcare. Also, the Operational Plan cannot be implemented
properly without an implementation timetable.
The Minister can stop all legal action against her and her department by simply
making the implementation timetable publicly available. Demand the Right to
Know. Join TAC events in Pretoria, Cape Town, East London, Polokwane, Nelspruit
and Durban on 4 November.