Appointment of Mabuza threatens HIV & TB struggle

– TAC welcomes removal of certain Gupta-linked Ministers & the retention of Ministers Motsoaledi & Davies

JOHANNESBURG, 27 FEBRUARY 2018 – The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is deeply concerned with the appointment of David Mabuza as the Deputy President of South Africa – and as a result his appointment as the Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC). Mabuza’s Premiership in Mpumalanga has been mired in corruption allegations and mismanagement impacting various sectors of society including health. TAC is concerned that under Mabuza’s leadership an already struggling SANAC will become completely ineffectual. Furthermore, we are also concerned that serious governance issues at SANAC will now go unaddressed. Despite our very serious concerns we will seek a meeting with Deputy President Mabuza as soon as possible to brief him on the governance issues at SANAC and the ongoing crisis in our public health system.

“As Premier, Mabuza failed to take a lead as Chairperson of the Mpumalanga Provincial AIDS Council, allowing the civil society co-Chairperson to run the show. As Deputy President, will he suddenly now take SANAC seriously and see HIV and TB as a priority or will he allow the structure to collapse?” asked Nqobile Shabalala, TAC Mpumalanga Chairperson.  

We are also deeply disappointed with the appointment of Bathabile Dlamini as Minister of Women (Presidency). In her role at the Department of Social Development she has shown a complete lack of leadership and almost collapsed the social grants system on which many poor women and their children rely. These are both amongst the most vulnerable groups in our society that need to be treated with dignity and respect. In her capacity as President of the ANC Women’s League she has often undermined rather than promoted the role of women in the ANC. For example, last year after bolstering her delegation to the ANC policy conference with six men she stated: “Sometimes we [women] lose debates because we become emotional. Now we want the experts [men] to argue.” South Africa will never address the deep rooted and endemic challenges of gender based violence and patriarchy with Dlamini in this position.

While we understand that President Ramaphosa has made certain appointments such of that of Minister Dlamini to satisfy factions within the ruling party, we do not accept that any appointments should be made on this basis. All Ministers, Premiers, MECs and public officials should be appointed based on their ability and their commitment to serving the people and not to balance factions.

Starting to uproot corruption

While the appointment of David Mabuza and Bathabile Dlamini and a number of other Cabinet members are concerning, TAC recognises that a number of very significant appointments have been made in the fight against corruption. We applaud the reappointment of Nhlanhla Nene as Minister of Finance and the appointment of Pravin Gordhan as Minister of Public Enterprises. We also applaud the removal of the following tainted Ministers: Des Van Rooyen (Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs), Mosebenzi Zwane (Mineral Resources), Lynne Brown (Public Enterprises), Faith Muthambi (Public Service and Administration), David Mahlobo (Energy), Bongani Bongo (State Security), Hlengiwe Mkhize (Higher Education), Fikile Mbalula (Police) and Nkosinathi Nhleko (Public Works).

These changes to the Cabinet send a strong signal that President Cyril Ramaphosa is serious about uprooting corruption. We however stress that this is only the start of the process that will likely take years and require much more political will and political risk-taking. Most of the healthcare system is run by provinces and most provincial health systems remain dysfunctional and plagued by corruption and mismanagement. A survey by TAC branches into the state of 254 primary healthcare facilities In November 2017, exposed that our clinics are in crisis and plagued with poor TB infection control, long waiting times, dirty toilets, shortages of staff and ongoing medicine stockouts.

For the public service to be rehabilitated, the same kind of restructuring will be needed in key provinces including Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and the Free State. It is critical that the misuse of public funds, such as the use of private ambulance services like Buthelezi Ambulances in the North West, Free State and Mpumalanga should be thoroughly and independently investigated and any corruption or irregularities should be addressed to the full extent of the law.

Lastly, we welcome that Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies have remained in office. We expect the new Cabinet to push forward with the roll out of National Health Insurance (NHI) in order to bring quality healthcare for all. We also expect the Minister of Health to urgently deal with provincial health crises such as the oncology crisis in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country. Further we expect this Cabinet to deliver intellectual property law reform before the 2019 elections. We hope that the process of amending our laws to incorporate legal public health safeguards will not be derailed by further ‘Bell Pottinger style’ industry attacks.

“The reshuffle will mean nothing unless there is a strong commitment from all Ministers to ensure that the necessary services are delivered to people of South Africa, the majority of who are poor, black and struggling to access healthcare, education and other services. If we don’t see real commitment together with drastic reform of the broken healthcare system, then the reshuffle will have been for nothing. We will essentially be in exactly the same position as before,” said Anele Yawa, TAC General Secretary.

Issued by Anele Yawa

TAC General Secretary

For more information and media interviews contact:

Anele Yawa | TAC General Secretary |064 850 6521

Lotti Rutter | TAC Media Liaison | 072 225 9675