STATEMENT : Free State’s community health workers’ case postponed to 29 January 2015

Over a hundred community health workers (CHW)’s  and the members of the Treatment Action Campaign  appeared at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court today, regarding their criminal charges following their arrest at a peaceful vigil on 10 July 2014. The 129 community health care worker’s case was postponed to the 29th of January 2015.
The postponement is meant for the prosecution to provide the CHW’s the evidence against them and for the CHW’s to make representations to the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Mxolisi Nxasana,  that the charges should be unconditionally withdrawn. 
The South African Police Services (SAPS) arrested the CHW’s in the early hours of the 10th of July, during a peaceful vigil through which they were protesting the crumbling state of the public health system in Free State, their poor conditions of employment, and the 15 June’s  autocratic decision of the MEC for Health in the Free State department of Health, Benny Malakoane  to effectively terminate their employment without warning.
The CHW’s first appeared in Bloemfontein’s Magistrate Court on 1 September and were ordered to return to court today. They convened at the Mangaung church last night and held a night vigil. The vigil featured speeches,  support messages from other stakeholders, prayer  and workshops on healthcare, rights and the Constitution law.      
Most of the CHW’s are still unemployed and most of them are breadwinners in their homes. In the interviews we had with them in the last night vigil in September for NSP Review, most of them told us of the great work they do in their communities and how people are now not adhering to treatment because they are not there to support them emotionally and sometimes even financially, from the little stipend they were getting before their services were terminated. The majority of the CHW’s are elderly women and have travelled long distances to get to Mangaung, so they can appear in court this morning.
The principle  and respect for law they have demonstrated in spite of the hardship this unjust prosecution creates for them signals their commitment to their cause.
Webbers Attorneys and Advocate Rudolf Mastenbroek will appear with the CHW’s on a pro bono basis.
The TAC and the CHW’s call for the immediate reinstatement of the CHW’s  under dignified conditions of employment and for the urgent implementation of effective measures to address the horrific health crisis in the Free State.
For media comment:  
Nosipho Kota – Communicatons Co-ordinator for TAC