UNITED FRONT RESPONSE TO FREE STATE ANCYL MARCH AGAINST TAC
Statement issued by Kwezilomso Mbandazayo, United Front Co-Convenor, February 20 2015
The United Front has learnt with dismay that today (20th February 2015), the Free State structures of the ANC Youth League, the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS and the Men’s Sector of the Provincial AIDS Council will march to the provincial offices of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). This march will demand the deregistration of the TAC. The propaganda for this march falsely accuses the TAC of working with imperialist forces to destabilise the ANC and government. This march is clearly in response to the TAC campaign for the improvement of the health system in the Free State province. As part of this campaign, the TAC is also calling for the dismissal of the failed and severely compromised MEC for Health in the Free State provincial government (Benny Malakoane).
The United Front believes that 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. Under MEC Malakoane, the health service has seen a dramatic decline and collapse under the weight of inefficiency, corruption and mismanagement. Indeed, the ANCYL, NAPWA and the Men’s Sector have every right to march and fully express their views. It would be naïve to ignore that this march on TAC is tantamount to a defence of the indefensible. This march amounts to the deployment of mass foot-soldiers to complement the increasing tide of undemocratic, unconstitutional acts by the ANC government which seek to clamp down on protest, dissent and freedom of expression.
We stand by the TAC. We call on all progressive organisations and individuals to defend the right of the TAC to criticise government, to campaign for its demands and to call for the dismissal of MEC Malakoane.
We call on the ANCYL, NAPWA and the Men’s Sector to reconsider their call for the deregistration of the TAC, and to withdraw their false political accusations against the TAC. We call on the ANC to distance itself from this march and to instruct its provincial government to engage genuinely with the TAC.
The false accusations against the TAC are consistent with ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe’s xenophobic and undemocratic attack on AMCU researchers during the historic 5-month long platinum strike last year and SACP Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Cronin’s attempt to delegitimise progressive civil society as agents of imperialism. The United Front is increasingly worried by these baseless attacks which clearly seek to delegitimise popular dissent calling for accountability and service delivery. These attacks exhibit a political elite that is proving increasingly incapable of resolving the demands of our people. They underline the importance of sustained mass mobilisation and vigilance against the rise of state repression. The United Front is emerging as a broad platform of struggle and solidarity against the failures of the post-apartheid dispensation to meet and address the basic needs of the people. Through sustained mobilisation such as the TAC’s, the United Front believes that the mass of the people of our country can win back politics and policies that put people before profits, mismanagement and corruption.
We call on TAC to desist from being sidetracked from the core problems in the Free State health system. As the TAC’s own research has shown, public clinics and hospitals in that province suffer from widespread stock-outs and shortages of medicines and medical equipment; major staff shortages at both a clinic and hospital level; a lack of water, electricity and/or toilets; patchy or non-existent access to services such as ambulances; the failure of the provincial government to fill critical vacant posts; and the persistent suspension of services due to financial constraints. All of these underline the deep-seated crisis facing that province’s health system. We support the TAC’s continued efforts to mobilise action to ensure that this crisis is addressed. We call on the Free State government to turn a new page and engage with the TAC in a genuine and meaningful way to resolve the province’s health crisis