Now we need the national ANCYL and the ANC to distance themselves from this and condemn it.
The People’s Health Movement condemns the proposed march on the provincial office of the Treatment Action Campaign by the Free State structures of the ANC Youth League, the ANC Women’s League, the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS and the Men’s Forum of the Provincial AIDS Council in the Free State.
The TAC has been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of Free State residents to access health care and has been unafraid to criticize those who should be criticized for failing to deliver what is a right for all our people – the right of access to health care, as contained in our Constitution. The claim by the ANC-aligned groups organizing this march that the TAC “is used as a political party” instead of a non-profit organisation is ridiculous. Moreover, that they are marching under the slogan “Hands off ANC Leaders” is an example of the tendency of some within the ruling party to put the interests of powerful individuals above the interests of the people. The Free State MEC for Health is facing corruption charges and seems incapable of effectively addressing the ongoing multidimensional health crisis in his province — a crisis characterised by, among other things, frequent drug stock-outs and the recent arrest and intimidation of community-based health workers during a peaceful demonstration. Attacking TAC for speaking the truth about the crisis in order to defend the indefensible is using health for party political ends. The threat by the ANCYL to “Stop the lies or else …” is an attack on all of civil society and we will not stand by when political parties close down the space of civil society to hold government accountable.
No-one should forget that the Treatment Action Campaign led the civil society struggle for fair access to appropriate drugs for more than a decade while the ANC in government under President Thabo Mbeki and his health minister allowed many thousands of children, women and men to suffer and die unnecessarily of AIDS. We will never know how many children died during that period when they were still very small after unimaginable suffering for most of their lives.
PHM commends the TAC for continuing the struggle for better health care and access to treatment. We salute its persistent advocacy to address the crisis in the Free State’s provincial health system and its efforts to hold the provincial MEC for health, Dr Benny Malakoane accountable for his failures to address the crisis effectively.
PHM calls on the ANC at the highest level to oppose and distance itself from the threats and intimidation against civil society being used by some of its structures. As the ruling party it should be at the forefront of defending and upholding the constitution and protecting the democratic space of the people.
This statement has been endorsed by the Advocacy Committee of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Cape Town, and by concerned paediatricians from the Departments of Paediatrics and Child Health at both UCT and the University of Stellenbosch.