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South African Press Association

TAC Targets Human Rights, Gender Commissions


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 treatment programme.

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 South Africa.

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 reply.

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 peaceful.

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 their responsibility."

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


South African Press Association (Johannesburg) provides news to news organizations around the world. 

Information in this article was accurate in April 1, 2003. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.