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2003: TAC and Civil Disobedience

On 21 March 2003, 200 AIDS activists marched to the Sharpeville police station to lay charges of manslaughter against Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, for not rolling out antiretroviral treatment, and against Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin, who had blocked the production of generic drugs in South Africa.

It was the beginning of a civil disobedience campaign, entitled "Dying for Treatment", that was in many ways reminiscent of the anti-apartheid struggle. On March 25, protestors disrupted a speech by Tshabalala-Msimang in Cape Town. The TAC also picketed outside the new R26-million magistrate's court complex in Khayelitsha, which Mbeki was opening.

Three weeks later, Tshabalala-Msimang accused TAC Chairman Mark Heywood of manipulating black people into civil disobedience. Picketers outside the welcoming ceremony for the Global Fund for HIV/Aids, TB and Malaria, had apparently angered Tshabalala-Msimang.

The Mail&Guardian reported on "The madness of Queen Manto":

"She then launched into a blistering, sarcastic attack that left senior government officials, Feachem and the rest of the high-profile audience cringing. 'They come with two buses and go to the commissions where they wait for the white man to tell them what to do ... Our Africans say: ‘Let's us wait for a white man to deploy us ... to say to us ... you must toyi toyi here.'

Tshabalala-Msimang spoke of Heywood as a white director holding sway over a group of impotent black actors. Without referring to him by name she said that this 'white man' was among the guests. Feachem looked bemused at Tshabalala-Msimang's continuous reference to this 'white man'.

Heywood was clearly furious. 'You are lying, minister,' he retaliated. There was a deathly silence until Tshabalala-Msimang thanked him for speaking up, saying she was happy she did not have to mention him by name."

The TAC suspended their civil disobedience campaign when then Deputy President Jacob Zuma appealed for political space until May 17 2003, when a full-day meeting between the SA National Aids Council and TAC would be held. An antiretroviral treatment plan was announced by Cabinet in November 2003, but slow rollout ensured TAC protests continued.

In July 2005, the TAC again marched to Frontier Hospital, Queenstown, to hand a memorandum to management condemning the inadequate ARV roll out in the Chris Hani Municipality, the hospital's ARV task team's relationship with the TAC, and allegations of mismanagement in the hospital. The police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. At least one person was taken to hospital. (see TAC statement).

Wits Journalism Anova Health

The project is jointly managed by the Anova Health Institute and the Journalism and Media Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. The project is funded by by the Health Communication Partnership based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Centre for Communication Programmes and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief through the United States Agency for International Development under terms of Award No. JH/HESA-02-05 and through the Anova Health Institute through PEPFAR via USAID under Award No. AID-674-A-12-00015.