Sonke Gender Justice, AIDS Accountability International and Grass Root Soccer, strongly condemn the efforts of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) and the Free State Men’s Forum to de-register the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and we condemn their march on the TAC offices in the Free State today.
We find it contradictory to democracy and South Africa’s struggle for freedom and equality that these groups are attacking an organisation that has represented the health interests of millions of South Africans and the rights of more than six million HIV-positive South Africans to have access to anti-retroviral treatment (ART). The TAC has been vocal in exposing the ills of the health system in the Free State. Clearly, today’s actions are a retaliatory attack against the TAC for its bringing forth of charges of corruption against Free State Minister of Health, Benny Malakoane, last year, and for its calling for his firing, despite the fact that their doing so was in the interest of health, democracy and transparency for all South Africans.
Government’s speedy and respectful response to civil society’s demands for accountability are part of the foundation of good governance and a strong democracy where public servants serve their constituency. This march and call to de-register TAC go against the various national and global obligations of the South African government.
The health system in the Free State is deteriorating. Reports of drug stock-outs, including such basic medications as antibiotics, lack of essential supplies, and the turning away of patients in need of critical care abound.1 Health professionals and activists who have dared to speak out against the MEC for Health, Benny Malakoane, and the failing health system have had their free speech responded to with victimisation, retaliation and intimidation, such as when 129 community healthcare workers and TAC members were arrested during a peaceful vigil to bring attention to health systems failures in the Free State last year.2
We appeal to all organisations to work together to ensure that proper health service delivery is restored to the Free State province, instead of playing to political party agendas, and we call on all South Africans to raise their voices to protect the rights and freedom of organizations like TAC to stand up against corruption and to be able to hold the government accountable for service delivery in South Africa without fear of such intimidation, distraction and retaliation tactics.
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