Author Archive:Abbey Jane Hudson

ByAbbey Jane Hudson

Civil society comes together for national conference on ending gender-based violence

Gender-based violence is a persistent global challenge and one that costs South Africa between R28.4 billion and R42.4 billion per year – or between 0.9% and 1.3% of GDP (KPMG, 2014). Rates of GBV are believed to be extremely high in South African communities, with many civil society organisations reporting increasing levels of violence, particularly against young women. Significantly for South Africa, which has the largest HIV burden in the world, women who experience gender-based violence are at increased risk of HIV infection.

End it Now! Together in response to GBV and HIV is a national conference to promote linking, learning and action on the state response to gender based violence (GBV), the interaction between HIV and GBV and the impact of GBV on young people, taking place in Johannesburg from 24-26 October.

The conference will bring together civil society, activists and, most importantly, organisations implementing GBV prevention and response interventions to gain a deeper understanding of the local context, share good practices and raise the voices of those most affected. Organised by the Networking HIV & AIDS Community of Southern Africa (NACOSA) and the AIDS Foundation of South Africa (AFSA) and funded by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, End it Now! is a collaborative, local civil society-led initiative to help bring an end to the scourge of GBV in our communities.

“We hope this conference will help to build the momentum towards a more urgent national response to gender-based violence,” says NACOSA’s Programme Director, Marieta de Vos. “Although there are many organisations and public sector services working hard to respond to GBV in communities, it is not enough. We need to do more. We need to find out what works in preventing GBV and HIV; and work towards efficient and fully funded responses to support victims.”

“We need to eliminate GBV and promote healthy respectful relationships, especially among young people, if we are serious about human and economic development,” says AFSA’s Operations Manager, Phumelele Ngcobo. “There are examples of effective ways of preventing and combating GBV. This conference is an opportunity for civil society to share and build on experiences of what works.”

The learning, research abstracts, discussions and conference resolution will be available on the conference website www.enditnow.co.za. Follow the hashtag #EndItNow on Twitter for live updates.

End it Now!

Find the original End it Now! Conference Release here

ByAbbey Jane Hudson

The Life Esidimeni 94+’s search for restorative justice

Media statement by The Life Esidimeni Family Committee.

Today (Monday 9 October) marks the beginning of yet another painful chapter for the relatives of what have collectively been called “The Life Esidimeni 94+”.

It will be the start of a difficult, probing arbitration process led by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, into the death of more than 94 mental health patients who were supposed to be in the care of the Gauteng Provincial Government.

Hopefully, this three-week process will mark one of the last chapters of pain and horror for the families of those who died, and those who are still suffering.

But it definitely won’t be the final chapter.

The process that starts today must have real meaning. The hearings must provide information, redress and closure to the affected mental health care users and their families.

That means the final chapter can only be written once there is true restorative justice for all the relatives of those who died, and a meaningful and sincere solution to the plight of those who are still in managed care.

So what do we believe “restorative justice” represents for the Life Esidimeni 94+?

It means the arbitration should not only be just, fair, honest and focused on the needs of the victims and the offenders. It must also focus on the offenders acknowledging their role and their readiness and willingness to repair the harm they’ve done.

Restorative justice usually involves both victim and offender, and focuses on their personal needs. In addition, it provides help for the offender in order to avoid future wrongdoings.

In this case, it could very possibly mean imprisonment for those found to be guilty through the investigations currently underway.

Beyond this, though, the families of the Life Esidimeni 94+ will want to know how it will help to take away the pain and get families closer to the process of healing.

That will require corrections to the system and policies which led to this situation, and ensuring that this sort of tragedy never, ever happens again.

It will require steps to ensure that those currently in the system, and those who may find themselves in the system in future, should never go through such an experience again.

It will also require steps to ensure that neither they nor their relatives ever feel the sense of disempowerment, injustice and fear that has been experienced by the Life Esidimeni 94+ and their families.

But more importantly that Mental Healthcare Users (MHCUs) must never ever again, be treated as “undeserving” human beings due to lack of care or due to services not being made available or due to ignorance or due to stigma of the staff.

We regard the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process being run by former Justice Moseneke as an important mechanism to not only repair the harm that has been done, but also to fix the structural problems that the Gauteng Department of Health allowed for many years.

We hope it forces the provincial government, led by Premier David Makhura, to acknowledge their wrongdoing and to have the courage and conviction to do the right thing in future — instead of looking for cheap and inhumane ways of dealing with funding issues.

The ADR process therefore means a lot more to us than just compensation; it means that MHCUs will never be neglected again, and that the most vulnerable will ever again be treated as unimportant and less deserving of quality mental healthcare services.

For the families of those who lost loved ones, redress and corrective justice will require the following: –

  • Acknowledgement of the Gauteng Department of Health’s role in the tragedy.
  • Trauma counselling for the families.
  • Calling of our loved ones names publicly.
  • Equitable and just compensation.
  • Reburial of loved ones, for those who require it.
  • Healing sessions for the families, and a mechanism to ensure they continue to retell their stories.
  • A memorial stone or monument.

Surviving mental healthcare users and families will also expect acknowledgement of the Gauteng Department of Health’s role in the tragedy, as well as:

  • Trauma counselling for MCHUs and their families.
  • Relocation to safe facilities with proper management according to the regulations, with proper governance policies in place.
  • Fair compensation for the loss of income.
  • An opportunity to retell their experiences.

There are broader issue that need to be addressed, for the sake of all who are affected by mental health issues. They include ensuring that the Gauteng Department of Health and the Office of the Premier fundamentally improves mental healthcare services in public health facilities year on year, and actively campaigns to break the silence and the stigma around mental health in public health facilities and communities. It must also continue to create awareness and promote the rights of MHCUs – as well as ensuring safe facilities with proper management, adherence to the regulations and the development of proper governance policies.

Issued by the life Esidimeni Family committee

Contact: Christine Nxumalo

079 137 4560

  • The ADR hearings will be held from 9am on Monday 9 October at Emoyeni Conference Centre, Johannesburg. The hearings are open to the public and the media.
ByAbbey Jane Hudson

Congratulations to one of our own, Skhumbuzo Mlibeni!

The AFSA family is indeed a diverse family made up of excellent, talented and passionate individuals and recently someone else noticed. Skhumbuzo Mlibeni was selected to attend the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Center Southern Africa Programme as a young leader committed to transforming Africa. YALI is a prestigious programme with the aim of investing in the next generation of African leaders, by focusing on enhancing leadership skills and connecting young leaders.

It is a great honour to AFSA to have one of our employees recognised and invited to be a part of this network. A hearty congratulations to you, Skhumbuzo!

ByAbbey Jane Hudson

NHLS Strike: A joint statement by the Treatment Action Campaign and SECTION27

JOHANNESBURG, 1st AUGUST 2017 – The ongoing strike at the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) is a disaster for critical and lifesaving laboratory services, but also the fragile stability of this institution, the struggling public health system and poor people who heavily rely on it. As a result of the strike we understand that the NHLS is only able to conduct a handful of essential tests with the small number of staff on duty. Critical and lifesaving tests are not being done and people will die. The situation for people living with HIV and TB is dire.

The current crisis at the NHLS is the culmination of ongoing upheavals, mis-management, corruption, massive bleeding of competent staff and an inability to protect this national asset. The TAC and SECTION27 have for a long time drawn attention to the challenges at the NHLS and the urgent need to address it.

We commend Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Director-General Precious Matsoso for their efforts to intervene. However any short-term solution – for reasons we explain below- will simply be a plaster on a bleeding and festering sore.

We support employees of the NHLS in their quest for a reasonable salary increase and working conditions. We commend them for exposing corruption and call for an urgent investigation into allegations made by NEHAWU and others.

However we appeal to unions working in the health sector not to conduct wage disputes in a manner which jeopardises people’s lives. 70% of all clinical decisions are based on a pathology result. That means that millions of people depend on these essential services. The break down of services as a result of mismanagement and the current strike is placing lives at risk, mostly those who cannot afford to pay for private tests and babies, who will die or face catastrophic health consequences far from the public eye.

SECTION27 and TAC are willing to assist in whichever way possible, including meeting with the leadership of NEHAWU to explore ways of strengthening the NHLS and ensuring proper working conditions for all its employees.

Although the strike may be nearly over the crisis at the NHLS is not. The NHLS faces a debt crisis that makes Eskom pale in comparison. We are informed that the NHLS may run out of money in November.

Underlying these problems are the failure of provincial governments to pay their NHLS bills. We are made to understood that Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal between them owe the NHLS billions of Rands. Their failure to pay their bills, money that has already been budgeted for laboratory services through conditional grants, is criminal and is endangering countless lives.

We therefore urgently appeal to both premiers Makhura and Mchunu to step in and order their health departments to pay their outstanding bills for services delivered. We do not wish to see another situation where the Premiers only starts taking notice of a crisis when we point out the countless deaths and suffering.

For more information and to arrange interviews contact:

Lotti Rutter | 072 225 9675 | lotti.rutter@tac.org.za

Zukiswa Pikoli | 071 195 3177 | pikoli@section27.org.za