Kwazulu-Natal Province (KZN) is the epicentre of the South African HIV epidemic. Nearly 40% of pregnant women attending public health facilities in the province are HIV-positive. 16.5% of people over the age of two are infected (South African National HIV Survey, 2005). More than any other province it needs good political leadership on AIDS. But instead the province's MEC for Health, Peggy Nkonyeni, entertains AIDS denialism and is destroying health-care in the province.
She is continuing her witch-hunt of Manguzi Hospital doctors, Dr Colin Pfaff and Dr Mark Blaylock. Pfaff introduced dual antiretroviral prophylaxis into the hospital. For saving the lives of children and improving the health of women, Nkonyeni initiated disciplinary action against Pfaff but later withdrew it following civil society pressure.
Blaylock, in reaction to Nkonyeni's actions, including racist statements she made about rural doctors, put her wall-mounted photo in the dustbin. Disciplinary action was taken against him.
On 21 May 2008 TAC met with the ANC’s leadership in KwaZulu-Natal including newly elected ANC provincial chairperson Dr. Zwele Mkhize as well as Ms. Nkonyeni, who is now party treasurer for the province. At this discussion it was resolved that the Department of Health would convene a broad stakeholders meeting aimed at amicably resolving the dispute between the MEC and medical officers at Manguzi hospital. MEC Nkonyeni undertook to convene this meeting within two weeks and that representatives from the Department, TAC, the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society and the Rural Doctor’s Association of South Africa would be invited. This meeting was never organised and attempts to follow-up with the MEC’s office have been met with rebuff.
Instead, Nkonyeni has proceeded to escalate the conflict:
The KZN Treasury has hired private consultants, Ubunye Consortium, to carry out the investigation. Here is the text of a letter confirming this.
In carrying out the investigation, the private investigators have obtained original confidential patient records. This appears to be in breach of the National Health Act.
Attempts were made by civil society following the meeting on 21 May to resolve this escalating conflict. They have all failed.
After a press conference held yesterday by TAC, RUDASA and the South African Medical Association about Nkonyeni's actions, Nkonyeni phoned TAC's KZN provincial co-ordinator Phillip Mokoena and threatened to take legal action against TAC. She also sent an SMS to Mokoena stating: "if you decide to be economical with the truth, one day that will catch up with you. The truth always prevail!"
Despite being implicated in a corruption investigation herself, Nkonyeni has been elected treasurer of the ANC in Kwazulu-Natal. This is a tragedy. She epitomises the growing thuggery and moral decay within the ANC, the movement that led South Africa in the struggle against apartheid.
TAC is considering legal options to stop Nkonyeni's illegal actions. We call on the ANC and the Premier of Kwazulu-Natal to take action against her and to resolve the province's conflict with Manguzi Hospital.