The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) issued a report today  on tuberculosis (TB), the mining industry and migrant workers in the region, which raises urgent concerns about the failure of the South African government and mining companies to adequately address the health crisis among migrant workers in the South African mining sector.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Since the 23rd of May, there have been thousands of displaced people living in camps and ‘safety’ sites around Cape Town. According to the Provincial Government as reported in the Cape Times on Friday 04 July, there are still more than 5 700 people staying at these sites. TAC estimates stand at 6171 displaced people.
The AIDS Law Project (ALP) and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) condemn the attacks on Mark Heywood by the Department of Health Director General, Thami Mseleku and the national DOH TB cluster manager, David Mametja.
Mseleku, speaking from the floor after a plenary presentation by Heywood, made a personal attack on the presentation, claiming that Heywood had merely swapped his slides from HIV to TB, and that ‘human rights were not relevant to considerations of health policy in a developmental state’.
"How does a preventable, curable disease become the leading cause of all natural deaths in SA, and the leading cause of all AIDS-related mortalities on our continent? Well, first we take drug-sensitive TB, a perfectly curable form of tuberculosis, and mismanage it for decades in health structures with poor infection control, weak diagnostic capacity, insufficient education on TB, inadequate resources and minimal political commitment. We observe substandard cure rates and increasing mortality figures. Over time, our poorly functioning TB programmes are manufacturing drug-resistant TB strains — the result of inadequate or incomplete TB treatment — but we don't worry about this too much until multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB explodes in our faces." -- Paula Akugizibwe, AIDS & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
Kwazulu-Natal Province (KZN) is the epicentre of the South African HIV epidemic. Nearly 40% of pregnant women attending public health facilities in the province are HIV-positive. 16.5% of people over the age of two are infected (South African National HIV Survey, 2005 ). More than any other province it needs good political leadership on AIDS. But instead the province's MEC for Health, Peggy Nkonyeni, entertains AIDS denialism and is destroying health-care in the province.
On 2 July, TAC organised a picket outside of the United Nations building in Pretoria to demand a response to a memorandum handed over to the UNHCR by Gauteng civil society on 20 June 2008. The event was attended by 600 people, all of whom called on the UNHCR to intervene in the humanitarian crisis now facing South Africa.
The community leader from the refugee camp in Acasia highlighted of the plight of foreign nationals living in the camp. He spoke of the poor conditions in the camp and told people about the hunger strike they are currently on to protest being given outdated food - and even expired infant formula, dated 2003.
TAC's Secretary General Vuyiseka Dubula also spoke about civil society's frustration over the lack of response from the UNHCR after 12 days and the belief that the UNHCR is not interested in addressing the matters raised in the memorandum.
A representative of the UNHCR promised to address the memorandum promptly and admitted that he and his peers and seniors had not discussed the matter yet.
The Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill, 2008  was formally introduced to Parliament on 17 June 2008. Parliament has called for submissions by 18 July. It will hold public hearings on 5 to 6 August. The Bill is disastrous. It will undermine the scientific governance of medicine and potentially reverse the gains of the recent court victory by TAC and the South African Medical Association in their case against Matthias Rath, the Minister of Health and others. 
Here is a letter written to the Head of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health by TAC and the AIDS Law Project (ALP)  indicating our intention to make an oral submission to Parliament on the bill and raising our broad concerns with the bill.
The Social Justice Coalition made up of the diverse people of South Africa held a meeting on Wednesday 25 June 2007 to demonstrate their solidarity with victims of rights abuses in Zimbabwe and those of xenophobic attacks.
This is part of the launch of the Social Justice Coalition, highlighting the continuing political crisis in Zimbabwe and calling on people across South Africa and elsewhere to press the Southern African Development, (SADC), African Union (AU), and the United Nations (UN) to act decisively to end systematic political violence in Zimbabwe and resolve the country’s long-standing political crisis.
A panel discussion was held on Tuesday 24 June at the AIDS Law Project offices in Cape Town. The subject of the discussion was “Taking Stock: Violence, xenophobia and camps: Where to from here?”
Panellists included Sharon Ekambaram, General Director of Médecins Sans Frontières South Africa based in Johannesburg, Mohammad Hirsi, refugee representative, Zackie Achmat of the TAC and Fatima Hassan, senior attorney with the AIDS Law Project.
About 400 people including TAC members and displaced refugees delivered a memorandum to the Western Cape Provincial Government today.
Immediately following the xenophobic attacks in the Western Cape in May 2008, thousands of displaced foreign nationals sought shelter and safety in more than 85 sites across Cape Town. Some were cared for by faith-based organizations, and community organisations, others were provided basic food and shelter by NGOs. Thousands more were forced by their dire circumstances into the bigger refugee camps.