Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) protesters have called on the South African
human rights and gender equality commissions to speak out on its demand for an
Aids treatment plan.
In a memorandum handed to the SA Human Rights Commission in Cape Town and
Johannesburg, TAC condemned the body's "inaudible and vacillating utterances" on
the rights of people with HIV/Aids to life and dignity.
The protests, which in Cape Town included a brief sit-in at the commissions'
shared offices, formed part of the civil disobedience campaign the TAC launched
in a bid to force the government to commit to a nationwide anti-retroviral
The Aids lobby group has already laid a culpable homicide charge against health
minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for what it says are 600 Aids deaths a day in
In Tuesday's memoranda, the TAC demanded that the SAHRC urgently investigate the
death last week of Gauteng activist Kebareng Moeketsi, and report on whether
access to anti-retrovirals would have prolonged her life.
Moeketsi was one of those who brought the charge against Tshabalala-Msimang.
About 50 TAC members attended her funeral in Alexandra, Johannesburg on Tuesday
before going on to the protests.
They demanded the SAHRC also issue a public statement setting out its views on
whether government was fulfilling its constitutional duties to provide access to
health care to people with HIV.
They said they would return "en masse" on April 16 to hear the commission's
TAC made similar demands to the Gender Equality Commission, claiming its silence
on the impact of HIV/Aids on women was "deafening".
The occupation of the Cape Town offices lasted less than an hour, and was
However at one point gender commissioner Gertrude Fester was sung down, rather
than shouted down, by about 20 activists when she tried to interrupt TAC
spokeswoman Sipho Mthathi's presentation of the organisation's demands.
Mthathi said the TAC was not going to sit by while institutions charged with
protecting democratic rights neglected their duty.
"As instruments of democracy they have failed," she said. "They have not taken
Fester, who had just arrived back from a trip to an African Union conference in
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on women's rights, told the protesters the gender
commission was on their side.
Aids was a "cross-cutting" issue in every one of the commission's programmes,
though this probably did not get enough media attention.
"All the best for your campaign, and maybe... desperate times require desperate
measures," she said.
In Johannesburg, SAHRC spokeswoman Phumla Mthala said the commission would study
the memorandum before commenting.
Gauteng police Superintendent Chris Wilkens said there were no incidents during
the funeral or the protest./wj