Subject: TAC Electronic Newsletter: Khayelitsha rally, court judgment, Patricia Lambert, traditional healers, ASASA
From: TAC News Service
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 19:35:49 +0200
To: news@tac.org.za

TAC Newsletter


15 December 2004

Contents




Commemoration rally for Lorna Mlofana in Khayelitsha


On 13 December 2003, Lorna Mlofana from Town 2 Branch was sexually assaulted and  then murdered by a group of young men when they learnt that she had HIV. On Monday, 13 December 2004 nearly 1000 Khayelitsha activists came to commemorate comrade Lorna Mlofana and also to say NO to women and child abuse. The event was co-organised by the TAC and Medecins sans Frontieres.

"We demand a recognised one-stop rape treatment centre for the Khayelitsha community offering comprehensive services and access to PEP for all rape survivors" was the theme of  the day. The current rape crisis centre offers little more than a reception. Every speaker and the people supported the demand. Khayelitsha needs an acute rape centre because 40% of reported rape cases in the Western Cape occur in Khayelitsha. Dr Faried Abdullah (WC HIV/AIDS Director) was among the attendees for the day, as part of his address to the gathering, he committed himself to meet the demands by the people of Khayelitsha that within three months there will be a clear direction on the rape centre.

Thembeka Majali, TAC Western Cape co-ordinator, argued that the 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based violence was important but not enough. She called for men to take responsibility for their actions and women to organise.  She said that the death of Lorna Mlofana was not an isolated incident but indicated more widespread violence against women and children in South Africa. Fredeline Booysen, TAC Mitchell's Plain leader, who lives with HIV demanded that AZT and Lamivudine should be made available at community level for all rape survivors.

Dr Eric Goemare, MSF Head, recalled how Lorna Mlofana acted as a role model and a treatment literacy co-ordinator in Khayelitsha.  He called on activists to build strong health services, treatment literacy and adherence support.   Zackie Achmat, TAC chairperson, reiterated the calls to end violence against women and children. A rape centre was urgent but not enough. He called on TAC Khayelitsha activists to lead a comprehensive social security campaign including support for a Basic Income Grant.  He said that economic dependence of women on their partners, husbands and families undermine equality and the economic and social marginalisation of young men leads to violence against other young men and women and children. Job creation and social security was necessary to prevent this. He called on TAC Khayelitsha to lead a joint campaign with youth in Mitchell's Plain to ensure that a programme of Youth Community Service was created for young people.

Arthur Jokweni, TAC NEC youth representative, called on all young people to join the Youth Action for Prevention March to Parliament in 2005.  Khayelitsha Police Inspector, Mr Jacobs, committed the SAPS to full co-operation with the TAC and the community to protect women, children and the whole community against violence. Mr Pato, Khayelitsha SANCO Convener for Safety and Security, supported the TAC's call for a rape centre. Mark Heywood, TAC Treasurer, called on the community of Khayelitsha to support the struggle of all people for treatment.  He said "The spirit of Lorna Mlofana and the spirit of Khayelitsha must become the spirit of the country." He saluted the Western Cape government for its efforts to roll out antiretroviral therapy and pointed out that there were more people on antiretrovirals in Khayelitsha alone than in the whole of Limpopo. Mbulelo Mjama from Positive Men United called on men to become directly involved and pledged his support to end violence against women.  Mama Dalena from New Women's Movement paid tribute to Lorna and the strong women who lead TAC.

Noncedu Bulana, an HIV positive rape survivor read and handed over the memorandum to Dr Abdullah. A candlelight prayer in memory of all survivors of violence and sexual assault and a tribute to Lorna Mlofana concluded the event.

The event was a success measured by the spirit of comradeship among the people that were there.

Below is the memorandum handed over to Faried Abdullah:

Memorandum to the Provincial Government of the Western Cape:

The Treatment Action Campaign and the Khayelitsha community commemorate today the first anniversary of the sexual assault and brutal murder of our comrade Lorna Mlofana. Lorna was a TAC volunteer, working as a treatment educator in the HIV/AIDS clinic in Site B. Her case has been heard in the Khayelitsha High Court in numerous occasions during the year. Now it has been referred to the High Court in Cape Town. The TAC has been picketing in the Court at each hearing in Khayelitsha and will not give up following her case until justice is made.
 
While we are determined to fight for justice in Lorna's case, we are also aware that her case is unfortunately not isolated. Many women and children are continuously being sexually abused in Khayelitsha. We witness it constantly through our branches, support groups and our community education work.

According to the South African Police Service, 6530 rape cases were reported in the Western Cape from April 2002 to March 2003. A large proportion of them happened in Khayelitsha. More than 60% of the rape cases seen at Thuthuzela rape survivors centre in Jooste Hospital come from Khayelitsha. This is a striking proportion considering that Thuthuzela takes cases from Khayelitsha, Guguletu and Mannenberg, with Khayelitsha being the most distant. It indicates that Khayelitsha has the largest rate of sexual abuse in the province.

Up to now the Khayelitsha community had remained largely un-responsive, overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problem. To promote a community reaction, the TAC-Khayelitsha undertook, in November, a month of action against women and children abuse. Numerous activities have taken place which are culminating today with this act in Lorna's memory. It is worth highlighting two actions: Nearly 400 people marched in Khayelitsha on October 30th to condemn a case of rape of a 7 year old girl in the C section; on November 20th a march of about 500 people took place to categorically reject the brutal rape and murder of a 4 year old girl. As a result of our mobilisations, more and more cases are reported to our office showing the eagerness of our community and the victims to speak out if their cases are heard and adequate response is given.

The TAC has met with different stakeholders to address the issue and call on their commitment to fight sexual abuse. The SA Police received a memorandum demanding active engagement in this fight. Some fruitful discussions have taken place thereafter with them to co-ordinate our plans.

As for health services, the interaction with Simelela clinic - in Site B – has been less productive. We realize that this is caused by the limitations that this clinic faces as a follow-up centre. Since Simelela opened in September 2003, the Provincial Government of the Western Cape committed to designate it as an acute rape crisis clinic, which undertakes forensic examination besides follow up care. Today we commemorate the anniversary of Lorna's sexual assault and murder, and also the first year delay of Provincial Government to meet that promise.

Simelela could provide a very important service to our community. However, being only a follow up centre, victims have to be first referred to Thuthuzela, for forensic examination, and afterwards must return to Khayelitsha to present a case at the police station. There are problems of transport to Thuthuzela which makes it very hard for victims to access that service. Many give up because of the distance. Appointments for follow up visits in Thuthuzela are hard to attend because only transport for the initial visit is offered for free. Others don't go because - being out of the community - Thuthuzela is a service that they have difficulties to relate to. Even more difficult is the case of children, since until recently Thuthuzela only assisted adults. Since Simelela opened, more than half of the victims assisted are below 14 years of age.

These barriers dramatically limit our effectiveness in developing a community response to sexual abuse since we can not rely on the health services available to them. 

We are committed to play our part in:
ensuring that the victims receive proper counselling and care;
making certain that the cases are reported to the police and action is taken against the perpetrators;
ensuring that the community is aware and understands the services that are available for them,
encouraging victims to speak out and the community to reject sexual abuse.

But we also demand that all other stake holders take proper responsibility. We demand from the Provincial Government of the Western Cape that Simelela is designated an acute rape crisis centre. Doing so would streamline facilities for rape survivors in Khayelitsha at their point of crisis, while improving uptake and co-ordination of services.

Sexual abuse is a problem of enormous magnitude in Khayelitsha. Fighting it requires of a radical community response, proximity of the services to the people and adequate co-ordination. This needs Simelela to become a dedicated comprehensive service for rape for both women and children. Delays in doing so seriously undermines any chance of developing a community reaction.
 
We urge Provincial Government to meet its promise and designate Simelela as an acute rape crisis centre now.

Yours sincerely,


Mandla Majola
Khayelitsha District Co-ordinator 
Treatment Action Campaign
13 December 2004

[END OF REPORT ON LORNA MLOFANA]

What does the judgment for costs against the Minister of Health mean?


Unconstitutional conduct of Minister and Department


The Minister of Health’s refusal to give accurate information to the Treatment Action Campaign was found to be unconstitutional by the Pretoria High Court. 

The judgment means:


Judge Ranchod held that Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang had failed to uphold her Constitutional duty to maintain and promote “a high standard of professional ethics”. She also breached the constitutional obligation that “public administration must be accountable” and that “transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information.”

In addition to the principles of good governance, the Court asserted that TAC would have succeeded in its access to information application had the timelines and timeframes for the operational plan existed. 

On the facts, the Court found that the information TAC sought was “the records of a public body” in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act and that “access to this information was not refused on any grounds whatsoever”. In other words, she just ignored the request. According to the court TAC “had little choice but to proceed with the application and this was not unreasonable in the circumstances.”
 
Justice Ranchod held that:

There is a strong probability that the applicant would have succeeded in its application but for the fact that the annexures, as it turned out, were not part of the 0perational Plan.  0nce the 0perational Plan was published, any annexures referred to therein would have had to be published as well.  Not to do so would have meant that an incomplete document was published.  The respondent's department's conduct was "the fundamental cause of the litigation". 

The Court took the unusual step of ordering punitive costs (attorney client scale) against the Minister of Health. The finding was not only made in terms of the Constitution but also in terms of the common law liability for costs. Judge Ranchod cited the then Chief Justice Innes:

"But I should like to say that in my opinion actual misconduct is not the only ground upon which a court is justified in varying the general and wholesome rule that a successful party is entitled to his costs.  I think it is the duty of a litigant to avoid any course which unduly protracts a lawsuit, or unduly increases its expense."
See Scheepers and Nolte v Pate 1909 TS 353 at 356.

 

This judgment sends a clear signal that no government official may ignore a request for information or misrepresent the status of documents.

This judgment affirms the right of access to information and the principles of good governance by imposing heavy penalties on the Minister of Health. It means that the courts will not tolerate unethical, unprofessional and undemocratic actions by any organ of government. This is good law for poor people and the strengthening of democracy.

However, the real costs are measured in the loss of lives through premature and unnecessary deaths.

In South Africa, one of the African countries worst affected by the epidemic, the Medical Research Council, the Actuarial Society of South Africa and the Centre for Actuarial Research published their assessment for 2004.1


TAC is vindicated by the judgment, but it is not enough. We demand that the government publish clear targets, timeframes and deadlines on prevention and treatment.

Letter sent by the TAC to Advocate Patricia Lambert today


15 December 2004

Advocate Patricia Lambert
Special Advisor
Ministry of Health
Private Bag X399
Pretoria 0001
Fax: (012) 325-5526
Email: lambep@health.gov.za

By registered mail, email and fax:


Dear Advocate Lambert

CENSORSHIP ALLEGATIONS ON HIV TOOLKIT

It has come to our attention through media reports (see attached report Cape Times           15 December 2004) that you instructed by letter the developers of an HIV toolkit – The Policy Project – to remove all references to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Cheryl Carolus, Patricia De Lille and prominent gay people with HIV/AIDS including Justice Edwin Cameron, TAC chairperson Zackie Achmat and the late Simon Nkoli. 

The toolkit was produced by the Policy Project (funded by USAID) with the Department of Health after an extensive consultation process.  Both agencies utilise public financial resources. From the reports it appears that the letter from you was based on an instruction from the Minister of Health.

We therefore request the following:
Did you indeed write such a letter?
Was the content of this letter based on an instruction from the Minister of Health?
If you did send such a letter, we request that you send the TAC a copy of it.
If you did send such a letter, we request that you provide reasons for doing so.
We also request a copy of all minutes and communications pertaining to the “Toolkit” with the Policy Project.


Such an action would, unless reasonable explanation is provided, be considered homophobic, an act of censorship, and, unjustifiable limitations on the rights to freedom of association, health including reproductive and sexual health, dignity, access to information and against the public interest.

We consider the report to be very serious. We urge you to provide a satisfactory response by close of business 10 January 2005.

Yours faithfully




RUKIA CORNELIUS
TAC EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
ON BEHALF OF THE TAC NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
CC: Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang

[END OF LETTER TO PATRICIA LAMBERT]

Letter to Traditional Healers' Organisation responding to memorandum handed over to the TAC


Dr D Nhlavana Maseko
President
Traditional Healers Organisation
National Head Office
PO Box 3722
Johannesburg 2000
Gauteng, RSA
15 December 2004
Fax: (011) 337 2589
E-mail: TraditionalHealersOrg@ananzi.co.za
By fax and email

Dear Dr. Maseko

RESPONSE TO THO MEMO TO THE TAC

This letter is a response to your memorandum delivered to our national and Gauteng offices on 23 November 2004.
The TAC wishes to work with traditional healers and traditional healer organisations, including the THO, in the interests of promoting public health in South Africa. In this regard we support the government's endeavours to ensure that safe and effective traditional medicines are recognised and that traditional medicines and healers are regulated on an equal basis to all other health professions in South Africa. This will benefit and protect both consumers and all ethical traditional healers. For a detailed explanation of our position, please see the attached letter sent to the Registrar of Medicines regarding proposed amendments to regulations of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Amendment Act of 1997. We are willing to discuss the content of this letter with traditional healer organisations.

However, we wish to state that we were disturbed by the tone and contents of your memorandum and pamphlets circulated at the demonstrations outside the TAC offices on 23 November. We were also disturbed by the conduct of THO staff members. In particular, Phepsile Maseko, insulted Prudence Mabele, a registered traditional healer. We also question the THO's motive for calling for the TAC to be disbanded. In view of this the TAC believes that for there to be any possibility of a productive working relationship between our two organisations the following requests must be met:

The THO must disassociate entirely from Dr. Matthias Rath and Advocate Anthony Brink.

The THO must publicly state that HIV causes AIDS and that antiretrovirals are an effective treatment for people with AIDS.

The THO must withdraw its allegation that the TAC is a drug company front.

The THO must withdraw its allegations that the Medicines Control Council is a drug company front unless it can provide clear evidence of this.

If any of these requests cannot be met by the THO, we will conclude that there is not a basis for collaboration between our two organisations. Should this be the case, and we hope that it will not be, a resolution will be tabled at our first NEC meeting of 2005 calling for all relations with the leadership of the THO to be terminated and endorsing membership status by the THO of the TAC to be rescinded.

Yours sincerely


Sipho Mthathi
TAC DEPUTY-CHAIRPERSON

[END OF LETTER TO THO]

Vuyani Jacobs, on behalf of the TAC, lays complaint with Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa against Rath Foundation and Treatment Information Group

Yesterday, Vuyani Jacobs, who lives with HIV and represents people with HIV/AIDS on the South African National AIDS Council, lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Association of South Africa (ASASA) on behalf of the TAC against the Rath Foundation and the Treatment Information Group for a grossly misleading advertisement placed on the back cover of the Mail & Guardian's World AIDS Day supplement. The advert claimed that multivitamins could reduce the risk of developing AIDS by 50% and that AZT and nevirapine are toxic.

The TAC has approved this complaint because the South African public is being flooded with dangerously inaccurate pseudo-scientific misrepresentations about HIV/AIDS, not only from well-known AIDS denialists such as Rath and Anthony Brink, but also from the Minister of Health. The confusion caused by this endangers the lives of people who have AIDS and desperately need to get counselling, testing and treatment. It also undermines confidence of people using antiretroviral treatment and has the potential to affect adherence.

The complaint requests ASASA to stop the advert from being placed again in media outlets that adhere to ASASA decisions and for a correction to be printed at the expense of the Rath Foundation and the Treatment Information Group.

The TAC also welcomes the decision of the Mail & Guardian not to run the advertisement again.

We hope that this will signal to other advertisers making unproven claims about the medical benefits of their products, that their profiteering via the manufacture of misinformation will not be tolerated.

[ENDS OF STATEMENT ON COMPLAINT TO ASASA]