South Africa

Op-Ed: Letter from the TAC to President Zuma

By Anele Yawa 12 February 2015

Honourable President, we fought side by side to bring down Apartheid. Now the enemy we face is no longer outside of our ranks, but here among us. We must purge our ranks of those who are corrupt or who lack commitment to the Constitution and good democratic governance. This may not be easy, but it is what good leadership requires. By ANELE YAWA, General Secretary of the TAC.

Honourable President Zuma,

I write to you in my capacity as the General Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). I represent the interests of TAC’s 182 branches across the country and the many poor people who turn to us for help every day. The vast majority of our members are poor and dependent on the public healthcare system. While TAC is not aligned to any political party, we know that many of our members would have voted for you.

Honourable President, our people are suffering. In many provinces the public healthcare system is falling apart. Many clinics are running out of medicines, ambulances come late or not at all, many of the clinic and hospital buildings are falling apart, and we don’t have enough nurses and doctors. The reality we see on the ground is of a healthcare system in crisis. When we talk about the state of our nation, we must talk about the state of our provinces. And as far as we can see, our provinces are coming apart.

We recognise that the task of fixing our healthcare system is difficult and that many good people are trying hard to make
things better. We are thankful for the efforts of these people and we stand with them. But, we also know that many unqualified and uncommitted people have been appointed in positions of great power. Many of these appointments
turn a blind eye to mismanagement and corruption. Each of these unjustifiable appointments is a betrayal of our people.

As you know, Honourable President, the Free State MEC for Health, Dr Benny Malakoane, is facing multiple charges of fraud and corruption. Amongst others, we have evidence that he arranged preferential treatment in a full Intensive Care Unit for a comrade in a public hospital. More harmfully, he is presiding over a collapsing provincial healthcare system. When confronted with the truth, he ignores or denies the reality that our members report from their communities. Many of our contacts in the Free State are justifiably fearful of speaking out about problems in the healthcare system. We remind you, Honourable President, that ahead of the 2014 election, the ANC publicly stated it would immediately dismiss or suspend any health official implicated, charged or found guilty of corruption in response to TAC’s People’s Health Manifesto. Yet to date Benny Malakoane remains in office.

What we see, Honourable President, is not a good story. What we see is that people like Benny Malakoane are untouchable. What we see is that loyalty to the ruling party is more important than the welfare of the people. What we see is people who are comrades in name, but who in their actions betray the people they are meant to serve and protect.

We have attempted to use formal channels to bring our concerns to the attention of the Premier of Free State, Ace Magashule, who has shown no willingness or commitment to addressing the collapse of the health system in the Free State. We have met with the ANC leadership, who under the stewardship of Gwede Mantashe gave us the promise they would address our concerns. Yet to this day we have heard nothing and seen no improvements.

It is your responsibility, Honourable President, to provide leadership in this time. It is ultimately up to you to make sure that people like Benny Malakoane do not stand in the way of improving the lives of our people. It is up to you, both as President of this country, and as the most senior member of the ANC, to tell Premier Ace Magashule that things cannot go on in this way in the Free State.

Honourable President, we fought side by side to bring down Apartheid. Now the enemy we face is no longer outside of our ranks, but here among us. We must purge our ranks of those who are corrupt or who lack commitment to the Constitution and good democratic governance. This may not be easy, but it is what good leadership requires.

Honourable President, your commitment must firstly be to all the people who live and work in South Africa – and only then to the party. If you want to show us that you are in touch with the reality on the ground and that you are on the side of the people, we recommend you start in the Free State.

Anele Yawa,

General Secretary

Treatment Action Campaign DM

Photo: South African HIV/Aids action group members of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) protest during a meeting at St.Georges Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa 29 August 2007. TAC protested in support of axed South African deputy Minister of Health, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, who was fired by South African president Thabo Mbeki for attending an AIDS conference in Spain without permission from the government. May 20 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication in the journal Science of a report from Dr. Luc Montagnier and colleagues in Paris that they had isolated what they believed to be the cause of AIDS: the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Today, the search for a vaccine continues. EPA/NIC BOTHMA

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