Joint Press Statement by Equal Education, Social Justice Coalition, and Ndifuna Ukwazi
We condemn the plan to march today, 20 February, to the offices of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Bloemfontein, by the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), 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.
These organizations are demanding the deregistration of TAC. We find this demand both unnecessary and out of line.
We will strongly defend the right of social movements, community organisations, civil society and NGOs to organise in the public interest issues in a manner that is within the framework of our law and to do so without interference and gate-keeping.
None of the mentioned organisations have attempted to engage TAC on the issues they raise. They claim that TAC is being used as a “political party” and not a “non-profit organization”. This doesn’t make sense. TAC is not contesting elections. It is taking up health issues that affect people’s lives. In our view, TAC agenda has not been to see the government fail, but to see it succeed in delivering quality health care for all. Unlike the political parties, who keep their funding secret, TAC’s financial statements are on its website.
We have all benefited from the work of TAC, particularly the members and supporters of South Africa’s largest political party, the ANC, and its league structures.
As TAC has explain in its press statement earlier today, this march is because TAC has been campaigning for the firing of the MEC for Health in the Free State, Benny Malakoane. TAC brought fraud charges against the MEC, the Head of Free State Health Department Dr David Motau, Free State Deputy Director General for Health Teboho Moji and senior officials in the provincial Department of Health. The charges relate to a matter first reported in the Mail & Guardian newspaper on 4 July 2014. The M&G article stated that MEC Malakoane had ordered that an ICU bed at Dihlabeng Regional Hospital be made available to an ANC official – even though clinical guidelines did not indicate that the official should be given a bed. The Mail & Guardian quoted doctors indicating that other patients would have benefited more from access to the ICU bed. One of these patients died shortly after. In addition to this Benny Malakoane is apparently facing other multiple charges of fraud and corruption, which are to be heard in court.
A satirical newspaper released by TAC on 12 February, the day of SONA, claimed that the MEC had been fired. The satirical newspaper also showcased TAC’s vision for the healthcare system in the Free State. This may have been the tipping point for these organizations. But satire and criticism of government leaders is a part of democracy.
TAC has also released fact sheets documenting what they term a health crisis in the Free State. TAC says many clinics are still without some essential medicines, surgeries are still being delayed, TB patients are sleeping in cold wards without blankets. TAC reports that MEC Benny Malakoane who is in charge of the Health Department in Free State, has unfortunately shown no willingness to fix the problem or engage with TAC, instead he has denied the severity of the situation.
We fully respect the right of these organisations to march against TAC. We would strongly defend their right to do so. But having a right to do something, does not make it right. In fact, marching against TAC, when it is fighting for health care and against corruption, is wrong. Intimidation is not the way to deal with differences. Engagement and debate should precede such an action.
It is strange to us that the ANCYL and the ANCWL in the Free State would be part of a march like this when the ANC has pledged to suspend officials facing serious charges of corruption.
We are calling on the ANCYL and ANCWL to rethink this march. It is wrong to call for the deregistration of a hard working organisation like TAC that has curbed corruption in the health system and won many positive victories for ordinary people on the street.
For more information contact:
Suncrest Shepard (Equal Education, Spokesperson) 0605034933
Britney Mlungwana (Social Justice Coalition, General Secretary) 0744178306
Zackie Achmat (Ndifuna Ukwazi, Director) 0834671152