ANC calls for “deregistration of TAC”

| Nathan Geffen and GroundUp Staff
ANC pamphlet being circulated on Facebook.

The ANC Youth League Free State has called for the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to be deregistered. This follows TAC’s “Fire Benny” campaign, which calls for the dismissal of the province’s Health MEC Benny Malakoane.

The Youth League will be marching on Friday (20 February) to the TAC offices in Bloemfontein. It will be joined by the ANC Women’s League, the Free State branch of the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) and the Free State branch of the South African National AIDS Council’s Men’s Forum.

An advert for the march circulated on Facebook (see image below) justifies the demand because TAC “is used as a political party instead of being [a] non-profit organisation”.

A pamphlet (see main image) from the ANC Youth League in the Free State says “Stop the propaganda. Hands off our leaders. Stop the lies or else …”.

Advert for march upon TAC offices in Bloemfontein.

One of the organisers of the march is Dikeledi Direko. She wrote on her Facebook page, “Treatment Action Campaign has crossed the line. Gloves are off, anarchy must be treated with anarchy. ANCYL Free State will not rest until that thing is De-registered.” She further wrote, “The battle lines have been drawn and there’s no turning back”. Direko claims TAC has advanced the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies at “the expense of poor patients”. She accused the organisation of “sailing in the sea of confusion with a quest to advance the agenda of [the] DA”.

On 7 December, the Free State Department of Health issued a circular stating, “As you are aware the Department and Province is currently having some financial challenges. In order to address this concern the Executive Council has taken a decision not to fill any posts during the last four months of the current financial year. This poses a serious challenge in ensuring that services continue, especially during the festive season. CEOs/District Managers/Senior Management can regard their requests for the filling of posts not to be approved.”

In a statement released on the evening of 19 February, TAC said that MEC Malakoane has to address the staff shortages in the province. “Unfortunately [Malakoane] has shown no willingness to do so,” said the TAC statement. “Instead he has denied the severity of the situation and refused to engage with organisations like TAC. Many of our informants are afraid to speak out publicly because they fear reprisals. It is our view that despite the best efforts of many hard-working people the situation in the Free State cannot be turned around while MEC Malakoane remains in office.”

The TAC repeated its call for “Premier Ace Magashule and President Jacob Zuma to dismiss MEC Malakoane and to appoint an appropriately qualified and committed person in his place.”

Last year the Mail & Guardian reported that Malakoane is facing “charges of corruption relating to crimes allegedly committed while he was the municipal manager at Matjhabeng local municipality in Welkom from 2007 to 2010.” The newspaper also broke a story in July that alleged that “a dying woman’s bed was taken by an ANC official”. The M&G alleged that the official got the bed on the instruction of Malakoane. TAC subsequently laid a complaint with the police against Malakoane over this incident.

In the 2000s, while Thabo Mbeki was president, there were marches on TAC offices by NAPWA and the Traditional Healers Organisation. These marches were directed against TAC’s position on antiretroviral treatment for people with HIV. In those marches, TAC members met with the protesters and accepted their memorandums. However, TAC has instructed its members to avoid all contact with the participants in Friday’s march “in the interest of safety”. However the TAC statement recognised the right of the organisations to protest. “We hope that unlike the 117 community healthcare workers arrested at a peaceful night vigil on 10th July last year and still facing charges, the authorities instead allow the expression of this democratic right.”

UPDATE - 9:30am 20 February: ANC national spokesman Zizi Kodwa declined to comment on the intended march, saying that it was a “provincial” issue and that the party’s national structures do not get involved in such matters.

UPDATE - 10:30am 20 February: Civil society organisations Equal Education, Social Justice Coalition and Ndifuna Ukwazi have issued a statement condemning the march on TAC’s Bloemfontein offices.

UPDATE - 11am 20 February: The United Front has issued a statement, saying “this action is a deliberate political act to deflect attention away from the demands of the TAC, community health workers and other health stakeholders in the Free State for the provision of a high quality, affordable and efficient public health service.” The organisation also says, “The propaganda for this march falsely accuses the TAC of working with imperialist forces to destabilise the ANC and government.”

UPDATE - 3:40pm 20 February: The South African National AIDS Council’s Civil Society Forum (CSF) has issued a press release stating, “CSF strongly condemns actions by ANCYL, ANCWL and its partners with attacks directed to Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in the Free State. TAC is part of the SA National AIDS Council structures Co-chaired by Deputy President Cde Cyril Ramaphasa and CSF Chair Cde Steve Letsike.”

UPDATE - 3:40pm 20 February: Sonke Gender Justice, AIDS Accountability International and Grass Root Soccer issued a press statement condemning “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 Men’s Sector of the Free State AIDS Council to de-register the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)”.

UPDATE - 3:40pm 20 February: Based on photos posted to Facebook, the march appears to have consisted of fewer than 100 people.

UPDATE - 5:15pm 20 February: The main banner at today’s march contained a Brothers for Life logo. Brothers for Life is a high profile HIV awareness campaign. The organisation is livid and has stated, “Brothers For Life notes with serious concern that its logo was used illegally in the promotion of this march against the TAC. We find this highly unprofessional and unacceptable. Brothers For Life supports the TAC and firmly stands with civil society in our endeavour to fight for adequate health systems that respond to the challenge of HIV and AIDS.”

Disclosure: Nathan Geffen, the editor of GroundUp and author of this article, held leadership positions in the TAC from 2000 to 2013.

TOPICS:  Civil Society Corruption Health HIV Human Rights Provincial

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