Civil Society Stand in Solidarity with the Arrested Healthworkers & Activists

Numerous organisations have come out in support of TAC activists and community healthcare workers arrested for staging a peaceful sit-in at Bophelo House, the headquarters of the Free State Provincial Department of Health in the early hours of 10 July 2014. These include:

  • Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA)
  • Hospersa
  • Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
  • Amnesty International
  • Right2Know
  • South African National AIDS Council
  • Civil Society Forum
  • Sonke Gender Justice
  • Budget and Expenditure Monitoring Forum (BEMF)
  • Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP)
  • People’s Health Movement
  • Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition
  • World AIDS Campaign
  • Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute
  • Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC)
  • Rural Rehab South Africa Professional Association of Clinical Associates in South Africa (PACASA)
  • South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)

You can read some of the statements and choice quotations below:
“The plight of community health workers is part of the bigger crisis in the province. There is a health care moratorium in the province with massive stock-outs, shortages and system collapse. Indeed, there are many similarities between the broken health care systems in the Free State and the Eastern Cape.” - Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition (ECHCAC) 
ECHCAC statement of support for Free State CHWs and TAC activists

“The aggressive and violent response of the Police cannot be justified. This has alarming signals of the police acting with impunity at the behest of the MEC for Health. SAPS must serve to protect all the people in South Africa and must not act to protect the interests of a political office bearer. “ – Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) Executive Secretary, Lawson Naidoo

CASAC Statement on Arrest of health sector protestors in Free State
“DENOSA cannot keep quiet [sic] when health workers’ expression of their first-hand experience on the poor conditions that they render health service under is met with an undemocratic and harsh scare tactic. Allowing the current state of health, which the MEC is familiar with and which we believe is well abreast of, will be tantamount to sentencing the vulnerable and sick people of the province to a death sentence. That must not be allowed and it is not necessary.” - Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA)
DENOSA Statement
“COSATU has been highlighting the plight of these exploited workers. The Civil Society Conference we convened in October 2010, declared the “Community health workers are a critical component of public health care, but are exploited by the failure to respect their rights as workers. Community health workers must be formally brought into the health care system as employees of the Department of Health and unionised” – Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) 
COSATU Statement
“BEMF recognises that those taking part in the sit-in were exercising their constitutional right to speak out against the failings in and collapse of the Free State health system. The peaceful protest illustrates a well documented phenomenon of civil society monitoring that has taken place for a long time. Citizen based monitoring and engagement is an accepted policy framework meant to enhance performance management of public officials” – Budget Expenditure Monitoring Forum (BEMF) 
Budget Expenditure Monitoring Forum Condemns the Arrest of over 100 Community Health Workers and Activists in the Free State
“It’s a sad irony that while community healthcare workers are being charged under Section 12 of the Constitution, for an illegal gathering – these workers play a vital role in healthcare at grassroots level in a province where health services at hospitals and clinics have collapsed, and citizens are being denied their right to health care, enshrined in Section 27 of our Constitution,” – Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) General Secretary Noel Desfontaines
Hospersa slams arrest of Free State health workers
“It is deeply concerning that the worker’s democratic right to protest is being violated in this way. We demand that the Free State police release the arrested protesters immediately and drop all charges. The R2K has noted with concern that the right to protest appears to be under threat in South Africa with policing becoming more aggressive and officials increasingly intolerant.” – Right2Know (R2K)
R2K Press Statement 11 July 2014
The SANAC Civil Society Forum condemns the arrests and will not allow such behaviour by SAPS towards activists and community health workers. These individuals are the backbone of the provincial health system and that not criminals – they must be released immediately, The SANAC Sector leaders are supporting the process of structural challenges in the Free State, a space which could also remedy such challenges, each and every person have a role to play in addressing health barriers and ensuring meaningful access to equal and competent services” - Mmapaseka Steve Letsike South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) Deputy Chairperson.
SANAC statement 100 healthcare workers detained Press Statement
“…why does the Free State Health Department act so aggressively towards CBHWs? Could it be that, in their community mobilising role, they could encourage communities to hold the health system accountable?
The People’s  Health  Movement demands the immediate release of all the arrested community health workers, the dropping of all charges against them, and immediate payment of all outstanding moneys owed to them.” – People’s Health Movement (PHM) South Africa
People’s Health Movement South Africa Statement
“The Commission has on various occasions including its report into healthcare in South Africa, socio-economic rights reports, as well as its findings on violations of the right to access healthcare, expressed grave concern about the state of public healthcare facilities across South Africa. We will therefore continue to monitor the situation in the Free State and engage directly with provincial and national government officials on this matter.” – South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
South African Human Rights Commission statement