TAC to Continue to Call for Dismissal of MEC for Health in Free State

–        Free State ANCYL, Free State NAPWA and Men’s Sector of Provincial AIDS Council to march against TAC in response to our campaign to “Fire Benny”

–        TAC remains committed to improving the healthcare system in Free State and calls for the urgent dismissal of MEC for Health, Benny Malakoane

It has come to our attention that the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) in the Free State, the National Association of People Living with AIDS (NAPWA) in the Free State and the Men’s Sector of the Free State Provincial AIDS Council will march to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) offices in Bloemfontein on Friday 20th February. Our understanding is that they will demand the deregistration of TAC because of our “Fire Benny” campaign. In this campaign we call for Free State MEC for Health Benny Malakoane to be dismissed – our reasons for this are outlined below.

As TAC we affirm that these organisations have a democratic right to protest against our campaign. We respect this right. We hope that unlike the 117 community healthcare workers arrested at a peaceful night vigil on 10th July last year and still facing charges, the authorities instead allow the expression of this democratic right. In the interest of safety, we are advising TAC members to avoid all contact with the marchers on Friday.

It is our understanding that NAPWA Free State is acting independently of the national NAPWA structures in this matter. The Provincial AIDS Council Men’s Sector is also acting independently of the South African AIDS Council Men’s Sector.

Situation in the Free State

The core focus of TAC’s work in the Free State remains fixing the ongoing crisis in the provincial healthcare system. Recent investigations carried out by TAC show widespread stockouts and shortages of medicines and medical equipment; major staff shortages at both a clinic and hospital level; a lack of water, electricity and/or toilets; patchy or non-existent access to services such as ambulances; and in some instances services have been suspended altogether due to financial constraints.

So, for example, on 7th December 2014 a circular was sent out by the provincial Department of Health stating: “As you are aware the Department and Province is currently having some financial challenges. In order to address this concern the Executive Council has taken a decision not to fill any posts during the last 4 months of the current financial year. This poses a serious challenge in ensuring that services continue, especially during the festive season. CEOs / District Managers / Senior Management can regard their requests for the filling of posts not to be approved.”

We consider the effective freezing of new appointments to constitute a crisis. While we do not have reliable statistics on the human resource shortfall in the province, we are aware of a number of facilities where staff shortages are currently impacting on the quality of healthcare services provided to our members. Unfortunately there seems to be no accountability for the mismanagement that has led to this situation.

Where possible we have, and will continue to, attempt to engage constructively with the Provincial Department of Health. We have for example had promising meetings with a team from the Provincial Department of Health (February 2nd) and the District Health Care Programme (January 27th) this year. However, we fear that the good intentions of those committed to turning around the situation in the province is being undermined by the poor political leadership, the pervasive culture of fear in the public healthcare system, and mismanagement at various levels – particularly financial mismanagement.

Why are we calling for the dismissal of MEC Benny Malakoane?

MEC for Health, Benny Malakoane, is responsible for addressing the crisis in the Free State healthcare system. Unfortunately he has shown no willingness to do so. Instead he has denied the severity of the situation and refused to engage with organisations like TAC. Many of our informants are afraid to speak out publically because they fear reprisals. It is our view that despite the best efforts of many hardworking people the situation in the Free State cannot be turned around while MEC Malakoane remains in office.

MEC Malakoane is currently facing multiple serious charges of fraud and corruption. Given that these matters are being heard in court, they cannot be written off as mere hearsay. At the very least, MEC Malakoane must be suspended pending the outcome of these cases. The ANC publicly stated it would immediately dismiss or suspend any health official implicated, charged or found guilty of corruption in response to TAC’s People’s Health Manifesto and yet to date MEC Malakoane remains in office.

As reported in the Mail & Guardian newspaper on July 4th last year, MEC Malakoane has allegedly used his influence to obtain an ICU bed for a comrade in a manner contradictory of medical protocol. TAC has laid charges with the police regarding this case (the charge sheet is accessible here) and it is currently being investigated.

Based on all the above information we repeat our call to Premier Ace Magashule and President Jacob Zuma to dismiss MEC Malakoane and to appoint an appropriately qualified and committed person in his place.

For more information contact:

Patrick Mdletshe // 072 182 6833

Anele Yawa // 079 328 1215

·       On Thursday 12th February, on the State of the Nation, TAC released an edition of (Not the) Free State Times, a satirical newspaper showcasing our vision for the healthcare system in the Free State. It is accessible here: tac.org.za/files/Not-the-Free-State-Post.-February-2015_1.pdf

·       On 12th February, TAC General Secretary Anele Yawa wrote an open letter to President Jacob Zuma appealing for the dismissal of MEC Malakoane. It is accessible here: http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2015-02-12-op-ed-letter-from-the-tac-to-president-zuma#.VOX8TrCUf2Y

·       On 1st September TAC laid corruption charges against the MEC of Health, Dr Benny Malakoane. The full charge sheet can be downloaded at this link: tac.org.za/news/tac-charges-mec-benny-malakoane-corruption-1

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