18 December 2013
In recent months the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has campaigned to draw attention to serious problems in the public health system that are having a negative impact on the quality of HIV prevention and treatment programmes. During our National Day of Action on September 12th this year we delivered memoranda to provincial governments in six provinces outlining these challenges. On November 28th the Stop Stockouts Project, of which TAC is a partner, published a report into stock-outs of HIV and tuberculosis medicines at facilities across the country. In this report (available at www.stockouts.org) the Free State was found to have the highest number of stock-outs: 191 health facilities were contacted and 167 provided information – of these 53.9% reported ARV or TB shortages. Three of the five worst affected districts are in the Free State.
This points to serious mismanagement of the provincial health system that is causing preventable disease, pain and loss of life.
Sello Mokhalipi is the provincial chairperson of TAC in the Free State. Since 2011 he has also been employed in the secretariat of the Free State Provincial AIDS Council (FSPAC) as sector mobiliser. To carry out this function he is formally employed by the provincial department of health (DOH). The FSPAC offices are also located within the DOH.
In recent months, Mokhalipi and other TAC Free State leaders have been at the forefront of monitoring and publicising serious problems in the Free State health system, including medicines stock-outs, understaffing, poor water quality and allegations of corruption. Meetings to discuss these problems have been repeatedly requested with the MEC, Benny Malakoane. A report of the findings of this monitoring was compiled and stored on Mokhalipi’s computer.
Regrettably, the publicity surrounding TAC’s campaigns, as well as the Stockouts report appears to have led to intimidation and threats against several TAC leaders – particularly in the Free State and in KwaZulu-Natal:
•After TAC’s National Day of Action in September a TAC leader in Kwa-Zulu Natal received an anonymous telephonic death threat. The caller said that TAC’s work ‘was placing the ANC in a bad light’.
•On World AIDS Day, Mr Machobane Morake, the elected Chairperson of Civil Society and Deputy Chairperson in the FSPAC was scheduled to speak at the official event in Sasolburg. However he was removed from the stage at the last minute by bodyguards of the MEC and denied the opportunity to be a speaker.
•On December 24th Mokhalipi received an anonymous threat over the phone with the caller saying he would be dealt with personally and that TAC’s work “is placing the ANC in a bad light”.
•On Tuesday 3 December Mokhalipi’s and three other computers were confiscated from their office by officials from the office of the MEC for Health. The computers have as yet not been returned. The seizure has not been explained.
In the light of the above TAC is writing to the Chairperson of SANAC, Kgalema Motlanthe, and demanding:
1.The immediate return of the confiscated computers and a statement clarifying on whose instruction the computers were confiscated and for what reason;
2.An apology from the Free State MEC for Health and an assurance that this will not happen again;
3.That SANAC immediately issue a statement recognising that Provincial and District AIDS Councils are independent from government departments and should not be interfered with or intimidated by government officials;
4.That SANAC also state publicly that civil society is independent and fully within its rights to speak out against corruption, mismanagement and failures of service delivery;
We also call upon the ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, to speak out against any intimidation that uses the name of the ANC and to call on all ANC and Alliance members to recognise the legitimate role of civil society in both monitoring and assisting government to deliver essential services and combat corruption.
For comment or further information contact:
Anele Yawa, TAC National Chairperson: 073 555 8849
Mark Heywood, SECTION27 Director and TAC Executive member: 079 321 5826