The #BopheloHouse94 are community healthcare workers (CHWs) from across the Free State. They were arrested in June 2014 at a peaceful night vigil at Bophelo House, the headquarters of the Free State Health Department. They were protesting the collapse of the Free State public healthcare system and the April 2014 decision of then MEC of Health Dr Benny Malakoane to dismiss, without warning or cause, approximately 3000 CHWs in the province. Malakoane has since been removed as MEC of Health.
At no time during the night vigil where they were arrested did the #BopheloHouse94 threaten public safety or damage property. They simply wanted a meeting with the MEC of Health to address their challenges, after several unsuccessful attempts and requests to do so. Instead they were arrested, thrown into the back of police vans and imprisoned in police cells. The arrests were only the start of their ordeal. Over the following two years the #BopheloHouse94 would have to travel at high cost to court seven times from across the province, spending a total of 14 days in court before they were finally convicted in October 2015. The appeal to the October 2015 convictions was heard in the Bloemfontein High Court on 8 August 2016. In a landmark judgment, with important implications for the right to protest in South Africa, the Bloemfontein High Court set aside the convictions and sentences of the #BopheloHouse94. This finally brought to an end the state’s callous and vindictive persecution of this courageous group of mostly elderly women.