The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has given president, Cyril Ramphosa and health minister, Dr Joseph Phaahla seven days to act on corruption and maladministration that has plagued the national department of health.
Over 200 TAC members marched from Loftus Stadium to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Monday. Also present and in solidarity with the march was the National Association of People Living with AIDS and the Positive Women’s Network.
TAC secretary general, Anele Yawa handed over the memorandum of demands to the deputy minister of health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, and chief director in the presidency, Mandla Feni. Yawa said the purpose of the march was to urge the president to act on individuals that have been implicated in corruption with regards to the Digital Vibes contract.
“We call for the immediate suspension of all those implicated in Digital Vibes. The minister must remove all those found to have played a part in the contract immediately. We also demand to know which steps will the minister take to ensure these individuals are brought to book. Many people have been getting away with corruption in that department; it must be cleaned.
“We want criminal cases opened against those implicated. We also demand that there be an urgent turnaround of the collapse of the health system. If not, we will hold the president and the health department accountable for the indifference to the suffering of poor people. We will not rest until we have an adequate response to our concerns. After seven days we will come back for answers,” said Yawa. What underpins the collapse of the whole health system, he added, is pervasive corruption and the absence of consequence management and accountability with public money.
TAC national chairperson, Sibongile Tshabalala said the march was meant to address serious issues facing a health system in crisis. “We now want action and not just words. We need the national department to fix issues around contraceptives for women and to also open up abortion services at hospitals. The people on the ground are the ones who suffer the most from the broken system. The system is in a shameful state especially at community level,” she said.
After receiving and signing the memorandum, Dhlomo addressed the protesters, saying that the national department is planning to start disciplinary processes internally and to apply consequence management on corrupt officials. Dhlomo said suspensions will also be effected and the public will be updated on all developments.
TAC has vowed that they will not relax until their demands are met with seriousness. “If the President does not take us seriously, we will be back here in numbers. We will protest in ways you have never seen before. It is time to deliver on your constitutional mandate or face the consequences,” the TAC warned.
According to the TAC, South Africa has over 230,000 new HIV cases every year, and there are around 83,000 HIV-related deaths in the country yearly. Another problem is that healthcare workers are overburdened and stretched to breaking point. Last week, TAC launched its public health manifesto which is aimed at challenging all political parties to show how they would fix the ailing public health system if voted into government. Dialogues to discuss the manifesto are ongoing in eight provinces until late this month.