Quote of the week

Mr Zuma is no ordinary litigant. He is the former President of the Republic, who remains a public figure and continues to wield significant political influence, while acting as an example to his supporters… He has a great deal of power to incite others to similarly defy court orders because his actions and any consequences, or lack thereof, are being closely observed by the public. If his conduct is met with impunity, he will do significant damage to the rule of law. As this Court noted in Mamabolo, “[n]o one familiar with our history can be unaware of the very special need to preserve the integrity of the rule of law”. Mr Zuma is subject to the laws of the Republic. No person enjoys exclusion or exemption from the sovereignty of our laws… It would be antithetical to the value of accountability if those who once held high office are not bound by the law.

Khampepe j
Secretary of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State v Zuma and Others (CCT 52/21) [2021] ZACC 18
11 March 2009

Death comes to the Free State

We are living in the silly season in the run-up to the election, so reports in today’s Cape Times about the collapse of the ARV roll-out in the Free State should be big news. Here we have an ANC government who in November last year decided to kill off some of the poorest of the poor members of our society by placing a moratorium on the roll-out of ARV’s in the Free State until the next financial year.

The ANC government has in effect told the poorest of the poor HIV positive people of the Free State who need to get access to ARVs: “Oops, we have run out of money so you are going to die”.

Surely other political parties should make a big stink about such a thing? After all, its rather damaging to the image of the governing party that it has decided to let some mostly poor black South Africans die because of poor planning or turf wars between various ANC factions in government or perhaps because of Aids denialism? What can be more important for a government than to protect its citizens from illness that will cause death?

As Mark Heywood reports: “Somewhere around November 1 last year, the death penalty was reintroduced in the Free State.” This is because those who depend on the states ARV programme are the poorest members of our society who do not have medical aid and cannot afford the R600 a month to buy the life saving medicine. Many of them need to go on ARVs immediately to save their lives. But now the Free State government has decided that there is no money and that these people must wait until 1 April 2009 – by which time many of them will be dead.

Several questions arise. First, why is the Free State government so criminally callous? Is it because those people who are HIV positive are poor and black? Or is it because they are HIV positive and therefore in the eyes of the Aids denialists in the ANC government in the Free State do not deserve the same concern and respect as, oh, say a convicted crook and fraudster like Schabir Shaik?

Or maybe the Free State government officials just do not care because these people are going to be dead and won’t be voting for the ANC in any case? Or are these people going to die “merely” because of corruption and nepotism in the ANC government in the Free State? Or are they going to die because the ANC government officials and politicians do not care because they know they will win the election in any case – no matter whether they allow HIV positive people to live or die?

Second, what is the national Minister and the national government doing to try and change this situation? Are they at least trying to save the lifes of the people who rely on the government for life saving treatment? Have the relevant ANC officials and politicians who are killing people in the Free State been fired? Have they been disciplined by the ANC? If not, why is nothing being done?

Is it because the ANC does not respect poor people? Or is the ANC racist and more worried about freeing a convicted fraudster like Shaik from prison because he happens to be a friend of Jacob Zuma than saving the lives of mostly poor and black South Africans? Would these unfortunate HIV positive people in the Free State now dying have been saved if they were friends with Jacob Zuma or knew someone else who style themselves as an important politician in the ANC?

And why is the opposition parties not all over this? Are they scared to speak up for HIV positive people because of the deeply entrenched prejudices amongst all classes and races of South Africans about HIV? Are they keeping quiet because they do not want to be seen to champion the rights and needs of a vulnerable and marginalised group in our society? Or do they also not mind that these people are going to die because they would not have voted for the opposition in any case?

Pardon me if I sound bitter, but this callous and deeply criminal actions of the Free State government shocks me. Section 27 of our Constitution states that everyone has a right of access to health care and that the state has a duty progressively to realise this right. The Constitutional Court has said this means the state cannot be rigid in implementing health policies and that they have a duty to act reasonably to ensure that the policy is also implemented in an effective manner to deal with the needs of especially the most vulnerable members of society.

This clearly has not happened in the Free State.

Why would one trust a government who cannot even do the basics right, who cannot even manage their resources in such a way to ensure that they will save the lives of as many people as possible? No wonder many people are cynical about politicians. Why would one trust people who seem to care more about their right to speed about in 20 car blue light motorcades and who would rather sip champagne and eat caviar than actually do the work that would save the lives of ordinary citizens?

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