ASHLEIGH FURLONG writes: The South African National Aids Council (SANAC) has rejected claims of corruption and that there is a lack of confidence in the council.
SANAC civil society leaders responded today at the South African National AIDS Conference to a statement signed by five civil society organisations who alleged that SANAC has a “crisis of governance and legitimacy”. These organisations also said that the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV and TB had various omissions and failed to provide “much-needed direction and leadership”.
SANAC guides and coordinates the writing of the NSP that deals with the period of 2017 to 2022.
The organisations who signed the statement are the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), SECTION27, Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Masithandane End-Hate Crimes Collective and Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP).
Speaking to the media during the South African National AIDS Conference, the co-chairperson of SANAC’s civil society forum, Mabalane Mfundisi, called the NSP a “perfect imperfection”. He said it was a “culmination of many different voices” and that all these voices were reflected in the NSP.
If anyone wanted to question the legitimacy of the make-up of SANAC, Mfundisi said they should go to the IEC as it ran the election process.
The chairperson of SANAC’s National Civil Society Forum, Steve Letsike, said that “due processes” were followed. She said that the “root cause of the problem was about the power of resources” and that members of civil society are malicious and “violate each other”.
“Today we say this must come to an end.”
Referring to allegations that she was involved in corruption at SANAC, Letsike said “bring the evidence”.
“Tell me where I have at all been corrupt in SANAC. If you can’t bring that evidence, stop abusing us,” she said.
As for the R240,000 that was allocated to the office of deputy chair of SANAC (a position that Letsike also holds), Letsike said that this money was used to pay for things such as refreshments and administration. She didn’t receive this money, said Letsike, as her position was voluntary.
She was also questioned about not signing a declaration of her interests. Letsike said that she had delayed signing the declaration because she had unanswered questions regarding it, but that she has since signed it.
Mbulelo Dyasi, the secretary general of the Men’s Sector at SANAC, then questioned where and on what, money was spent in the AIDS sector. He called on Parliament and the Public Protector to assist them as they “must investigate the entire AIDS sector”.
“Who is funded and where is that money going to?” asked Dyasi. “They must tell us why only four white organisations are funded in South Africa, yet AIDS is black,” he said.
Jacqueline Bodibe, part of the Global Fund Coordinating Mechanism, said that a sex worker had been intimidated to prevent her from participating in the media briefing by an organisation that was “supposed to be protecting workers”. It is unclear which organisation she was referring to.
Bodibe said that it didn’t mean that if one was no longer in leadership at SANAC, things weren’t working. This was reiterated by a number of those from SANAC.
The leader of the Women’s Sector at SANAC, Khanyisa Dunjwa said: “The activism space is becoming a space of the privileged. [We] see ourselves fighting the different levels of the privilege.”
She also alleged that some people who belonged to organisations who signed the statement didn’t even know about the statement’s existence.