Free State Update: We Will Not Retreat!

10th JULY JOHANNESBURG – Over 150 Free State community health workers (CHWs) and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) activists, arrested during the early hours of Thursday, remain in detention tonight at various police stations in Bloemfontein despite attempts to secure their release.

Those arrested while staging a peaceful night vigil at the Free State Department of Health headquarters Wednesday night, will appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates court tomorrow (Friday) morning.

The TAC would like to reiterate the following:

  1. The vigil was peaceful.
  2. It is our right to stage such a protest.
  3. We are demanding that charges for gathering illegally be dropped.

Those arrested, including many middle-aged and elderly women who have served the health service for years, spent the entire Thursday in holding cells at various Bloemfontein police stations. They are hungry, cold and in need of critical medication for various conditions such as HIV, TB, diabetes and hypertension.

Since the arrests the TAC and those being detained have received support from a number of organisations including:

·      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

·      SECTION27

·      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

·      Centre for Economic Governance in AIDS

·      Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute

·      Sonke Gender Justice

·      Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC)

·      Rural Rehab South Africa

·      Professional Association of Clinical Associates in South Africa (PACASA)

The community healthcare workers and activists staged the sit in after months of trying to engage MEC of Health Benny Malakoane and his officials. They had previously been promised a meeting with Malakoane following a sit in at Bophelo House on 27th June. The meeting did not happen. Earlier written requests also came to nothing. Both the Premier of the Free State, Ace Magashule, and Malakoane have consistently ignored the plight of the community health workers. 

The TAC is appealing to people to attend the court hearing tomorrow in solidarity with our struggle for quality health care and the right of all citizens to stage peaceful protests. We will not retreat from defending people’s right to health care.

Details of the court hearing:

Bloemfontein Magistrates Court

8.30 am

Corner St. George’s and President Brand Streets

For more information & to arrange interviews contact:
Lotti Rutter 081 818 8493
Mary-Jane Matsolo 079 8022 686
Marcus Low 082 962 8309