The Free State ANC Youth League has called for the Treatment Action Campaign to be deregistered. This follows TAC's ‘Fire Benny’ campaign, which calls for the dismissal of the province's health MEC Benny Malakoane. NATHAN GEFFEN reports.
The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) will be marching on Friday (20 February) to the Treatment Action Campaign 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 from the ANC Youth League in the Free State says, “Stop the propaganda. Hands off our leaders. Stop the lies or else… “
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 the 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 2014, 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 Thursday evening [19 February], TAC said 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 was 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, “a dying woman’s bed was taken by an ANC official”. The M&G claimed the official got the bed on the instruction of Malakoane. The 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 the TAC’s position on antiretroviral treatment for people with HIV. In those marches, TAC members met with the protesters and accepted their memorandums. But the TAC has instructed its members to avoid all contact with the participants in Friday’s march “in the interest of safety”.
At the same time, 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 10 July last year and still facing charges, the authorities instead allow the expression of this democratic right.”
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. DM
Disclosure: Nathan Geffen, the editor of GroundUp and author of this article, held leadership positions in the TAC from 2000 to 2013.