No rest before dignity!
We Demand All of Our Constitutional Rights!
We will step up activism to end AIDS in our lifetimes.
This week, as we celebrate the first 20 years of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the reality around us compels us not to dwell on the past, but to plan for the future.
At the end of 2018 the sickening reality is that much of our public healthcare system is in a state of crisis. Long queues, medicines stockouts, shortages of healthcare workers, general mismanagement, corruption and indifference have all become the order of the day. As TAC members, we experience this disgraceful reality every day. It is there for all to see in the media and in the reports of the Office of Health Standards and Compliance. For most people who depend on the public healthcare system, the dream of quality healthcare remains just a dream. The dream of dignity for all has been deferred.
In 2018 many corrupt and unqualified persons remain in charge of provincial healthcare systems, remain in charge in districts, and in hospitals and clinics. Many who have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar have not been punished. In 2018, there is still no accountability for corruption in the healthcare system. Let there be no doubt, the politicians have not only failed us, they have stolen the money and abandoned us.
The work ahead of TAC is as daunting as anything we have faced before. We have made great strides as a result of our activism, but we now face a new form of denialism. Nearly 300 people still die a day of AIDS related illnesses particularly TB, but we refuse to see this as a national crisis. However, today it is not politically inspired AIDS denialism that kills people, we defeated that, it is denial of a failing health system and the lack of political will to act urgently to fix it.
That is why once again, we have no choice, we simply must embark upon what is likely to be a many-years-long fight to transform our public healthcare system into one where life is truly valued and where people are treated with dignity. If we are serious, we also have no choice, we simply must ensure that not one corrupt or underqualified person is left in a position of power. We must also make sure that all those who have conveniently been moved to other jobs or portfolios are brought to justice.
This work will require years of commitment and many unpleasant battles. Yet, if we do not do it, who will?
More than ever, South Africa needs a well-informed, rights-aware movement of poor people that can demand accountability, that can demand that all people are treated with dignity and respect. Without such a movement, we see little hope for change.
We also know that such a movement will not form itself. It will be formed by TAC and our allies struggling for social justice in education, or housing, food or children’s rights; it will be formed of people who decide that together we need to do better, people who decide that the best thing we can do with our lives is to commit it to the struggle for dignity and equality for all.
We call on all like-minded people to join us in building and shaping this movement. As before, millions of lives depend on it.
As the members and leadership of TAC we do not have all the answers. We need healthcare workers, researchers, lawyers, policy-makers and many other people to help us. All TAC’s greatest victories have been won with the assistance of comrades from other organisations and other walks of life. This will also be so with future victories.
As we face the next 20 years, we commit to reviving our culture of learning about our constitutional rights and about the science and treatment of HIV, TB, cancer and other causes of preventable death. We commit to building on our long tradition of sophisticated, reasoned and evidence-based activism driven by poor people. We commit to not only learning from our victories, but also from our mistakes, and we have made mistakes. We commit to self-sacrifice. We commit to women’s leadership and stamping out sexual harassment within and without of TAC. We commit to non-racialism and inclusion, to opposing xenophobia and hate. Instead we stand for solidarity and all people’s human rights.
We will not be blown off our course by the politics of the day, but we will stay humble and stand firm and be guided by our members, and the interests of our members, across the country. And finally, we commit not to take any shortcuts, but to mobilise, mobilise mobilise.
Today is International Human Rights Day. It is a fitting day for TAC to renew its commitment and pledge to achieve social justice. Our demand to our government, to the courts, and those with economic power in our country is that “we want all our Constitutional rights”. We want a country that honours is commitment to social justice and equality in deed and not just word. And we will fight for it.
Activists and leaders of the TAC, Women’s Jail, 10 December 2018