Health Systems

Media alert: Free State Health System on Trial

Next week from 6th – 9th July the trial of the 117 Community Healthcare Workers takes place in Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court. At the same time so to will the Free State health system be on trial in the People’s Commission of Inquiry. Find below details of both hearings.

  1. People’s Commission of Inquiry into the Free State Health System


The Free State health system has been in crisis for several years. This province faces more stockouts of essential medicines and supplies than any other province. Each day there are new reports of patients facing inadequate, often undignified and inhumane, and sometimes altogether suspended services. However, the Free State provincial government continues to deny there is a crisis.

In order to expose the truth in the province on 7th and 8th July 2015 an independent commission of inquiry will conduct public hearings into the state of public healthcare in the Free State. The commission will consist of three independent commissioners: Bishop Paul Verryn (formerly of the Johannesburg Central Methodist Church), Thembeka Gwagwa, and Thokozile Madonko (of the Alternative Information and Development Centre).

The inquiry will investigate the real situation in the province, it will hear the voices of healthcare providers and users of the system, and offer solutions to reverse the collapse of the healthcare system of which mostly poor people depend and rely. In preparation a series of community consultations have been held with users of the public healthcare system in May 2015. People from 13 different communities across the province will testify about their experiences in accessing healthcare through the public sector. Various doctors and healthcare worker groups have also been invited to make submissions to the commission.

While the commission of inquiry has been organised by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the commission will act independently. The terms of reference for the commissioners can be found here. An independent report will be published following the hearings.


The hearings are open to all. They will be conducted in the Mabaleng Auditorium, University of Free State, 205 Nelson Mandela Drive, Park West, Bloemfontein.


Hearings will start at 09h00 on both the 7th and the 8th of July and continue until at least 17h00.

  1. The trial of the 117 CHWs


The trial of 117 community healthcare workers (CHWs) arrested during a peaceful night vigil on 10th July 2014 will take place from 6th to 9th July 2015 in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court. Requests from TAC to drop the charges against the 117 have been rejected by the National Prosecuting Authority.

Over 1120 delegates to the South African AIDS conference held in Durban in June 2015 signed a petition calling for the charges to be dropped. High profile signatories include Dr Fareed Abdullah (CEO of the South African National AIDS Council), Professor Glenda Gray (President of the South African Medical Rsearch Council), and Professor Salim Abdool Karim (Director of the Centre for AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa).

TAC believes that the persecution of the 117 is malicious and an abuse of public resources. We are confident that the state’s case against these committed public servants will not be successful.

For more information and to arrange interviews please contact:

Lotti Rutter // // 081 818 8493

Mary-Jane Matsolo // // 079 802 2686