TAC to Embark on Civil Disobedience in the Free State

MEC Malakoane must be fired

In recent months the collapse of the Free State health system has turned into a crisis with disastrous consequences for many people who depend on the province’s public health system. The MEC for Health, Benny Malakoane, and the Premier of the province, Ace Mashagule, have both failed to respond with any urgency to the crisis.

During a sit-in at Bophelo House (the seat of the Free State Department of Health in Bloemfontein) on the 27th of June by members of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and community healthcare workers we were promised a meeting with Malakoane within seven days. That meeting has not materialised. Earlier written requests to meet with Malakoane were ignored. While Mashagule has responded to an earlier letter from TAC in writing, his response was evasive and showed no understanding of the crisis in the province.

Stakeholders other than the TAC, including the South African Medical Association (SAMA) and the Democratic Alliance have also raised alarm bells about the situation in the province. Last Friday’s Mail & Guardian carried devastating exposes of the extent to which the provincial health system has collapsed under the current leadership.

The TAC has also raised the problems in the Free State with the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) and with the Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. While the National Department of Health did send a team to investigate the situation in the Free State, the results of this investigation have not yet been released. SANAC has been worryingly quiet about the crisis. TAC has also contacted the Secretary General of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe to seek a political intervention from senior ANC leadership. Manteshe has not responded to an SMS and a letter from the General Secretary of the TAC, Anele Yawa.

Given the on-going crisis in the Free State and the indifference of the provincial government, the TAC together with community healthcare workers will stage a night vigil sit-in at Bophelo House starting this evening (Wednesday, July 9 2014) and continueing through the night until tomorrow morning. This sit-in signals the start of a campaign of civil disobedience in the Free State. We stress that this will be a non-violent civil disobedience campaign and that we will not stand for the damaging of any property by our members.

Our decision to embark on a campaign of civil disobedience is not taken lightly. However, attempts at addressing the Free State health crisis through meetings and letters has failed. We are therefore left with few other options. In parallel to the civil disobedience campaign, we are also exploring the potential of litigating against Malakoane and the Free State Department of Health. We would have preferred to avoid litigation, but we have exhausted all other avenues.

We demand the following:

– Premier Ace Mashagule must remove Benny Malakoane from his position as MEC of Health in the Free State. If Mashagule is not willing to do this, we call on the ANC’s national leadership to intervene.

– Recently dismissed community healthcare workers must be reinstated with immediate effect.

– A turn-around plan for the provincial health system must be developed as a matter of urgency. It is essential that this turn-around plan be led by committed and qualified people – and not the current MEC.

– The secretariat of the Provincial AIDS Council must be moved out of the Department of Health so as to ensure independence and more effective civil society engagement.

– The Free State Department of Health must come clean about its financial problems. The public has a right to know how the Department is spending money – especially in the midst of a crisis like the current one.

For more information contact:

Anele Yawa, TAC General Secretary – 079 328 1215

Sello Mokhalipi, TAC Free State Chairperson – 078 927 2369

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