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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 2, No. 24, 3 December 2003

In this Issue:

Red Alert:
SACP Solidarity Message to COSATU’s 18th Anniversary Celebrations

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

Celebrating COSATU’s anniversary is a celebration of the past, present and future role of workers in the liberation struggle and the struggle for the transformation of our country. It is a celebration of the heroic struggles that this giant federation has waged as a critical contribution to bring us where we are today. That is why, on behalf of the Central Committee of the SACP and the entire membership of our Party, I bring fraternal and revolutionary greetings, on this, the 18th Anniversary of COSATU. We also wish to use this opportunity to congratulate COSATU for its highly successful 8th National Congress, which spoke very clearly and forthrightly on a number of critical issues facing our country and our economy. Abanezindlebe mabezwe ukuthi abasebenzi baseMzansi bathini!!

Cosatu is a vital cog in working class struggles and the struggle for transformation

Celebrating 18 years of COSATU should also be used as an emphatic reminder to our people, including our detractors and doubting Thomas’s as well, that just as the working class was the backbone of the struggle against apartheid, our struggle for transformation can only be decisively advanced if led by the working class, as the principal motive force of our revolution.

Why do we say this?

  • This is simply because of the fact that the main content of our struggle for transformation still remains the total liberation of the African people in particular and black people in general. In class terms this means the workers and the poor of our country! Therefore the principal platform on which to achieve this in the current period is that of shifting the balance of forces and power in all spheres of society in favour of the interests of the workers and the poor. It is only the working class, in which organised workers in general, and COSATU in particular, is a vital cog, that is best capable to carry this task to its conclusion!
  • A society that has to create mass poverty as a condition for creating wealth for a few is a sick society and is unsustainable. It is only a struggle with a working class bias, with the working class at its head that can defeat such irrationality and greed of capitalism. Organised workers therefore constitute a leading stratum of the working class as a whole and its struggles.
  • Whilst we have attained our political freedom, economic power still remains with the same old capitalist class, the white capitalist class to be specific. Therefore for any further decisive advance of our democracy we need to roll back the economic domination of capitalist power in our society as well as the madness of the capitalist market. COSATU is an important part of this battle, as it has always been and will forever be.

Celebrating the role of COSATU in the first ten years of our freedom

Celebrating COSATU’s 18 years also coincides with the end of the first decade of our freedom. COSATU, as part of the Alliance, has been a vital component in the advances we have made during the first decade of our freedom. COSATU has engaged and made its impact on every major political, social and economic issue facing our country since 1994.

COSATU was central in the drafting and adoption of the RDP as the programme of our first democratic government. COSATU has spearheaded major transformations in the labour market in favour of the workers. COSATU has played a crucial role in the formulation of the Growth and Development Summit resolutions. COSATU has been part of major campaigns for job creation and retention as well as struggles against poverty in general. COSATU is an important component of our Alliance.

Defend and nurture independent working class organisation and power!

Yet, whilst fully supporting our Alliance and government, it has not hesitated to raise its independent voice, and be critical of government where it sees fit. It has done so without fear or favour. We salute the courage of the workers under this giant federation. Those on the extreme left who do not understand strategy and tactics, but are permanent oppositionists, have been confused by this stance – an expression of a mature workers’ formation! This is their problem, not ours, and that is why they will forever remain on the fringes of major working class struggles and issues.

Others have dubbed raising of criticism as disloyalty to the Alliance and our government. Nothing could be further from the truth. Characterising constructive criticism and disagreement as disloyalty is an expression of a failure to understand that independent working class stances, which may include criticism and self-criticism, a tradition of our movement – is a vital component to advance our struggle. Again, like the extreme left, theirs is their own problem, not of the independent working class contingent of our revolution! In fact, celebrating 18 years of COSATU is also a celebration of the culture of criticism and self-criticism, and the absolute importance of defending, building and nurturing independent worker and working class organisation. This we must never surrender under any circumstances!

The SACP/COSATU relationship is a special relationship of a strategic nature: Take forward the Working Class Medium Term Vision

It is for all what I have said above that at your 8th Congress, the SACP advanced the notion that the relationship between itself and COSATU must be seen as a strategic relationship. It is a strategic relationship precisely because it is an embodiment of the class aspirations of the working class, including worker issues, but also going beyond them. It is the engine for concretely making the working class to be the principal motive force in our struggle.

The strategic nature of this relationship should express itself at a number of levels. Let me mention a few critical ones. Firstly, COSATU’s Vision 2015 provides a very important vision and dimension of the overall struggles of the workers in our country. This vision can however only be fully realised if linked to the SACP’s own Medium Term Vision. In short we need to harmonise the two, without sacrificing the critical dimensions of each. The SACP’s medium term vision states that the objective of the working class by the end of the second decade of our freedom must be that no centre of power in society – the state, the private sector, mass formations – should be able to make any decision without centrally taking into account the class interests of the working class. In short the vision of South African society must be premised on the class interests of the workers and the poor! The implementation and harmonisation of these visions, not in boardrooms but through concrete working class led struggles on the ground, provides a critical platform expressing the strategic nature of our relationship.

We would also like to use this opportunity to focus on the all-important task of the organisation and mobilisation of the more vulnerable workers in our society, as a key area of co-operation and joint struggles. The organisation of farmworkers, within the context of land and agrarian reform, domestic workers, within the context of fighting gender inequality, and casualised workers is a matter of paramount importance for the working class in our country. As the SACP we have begun, through our 2003 Red October Campaign, to throw our full weight behind these struggles. We are going to be intensifying this campaign early next year.

Another important dimension of this strategic relationship should express itself through intensifying ideological and cultural struggles to challenge neo-liberal ideology and the CNN culture, to ensure that the working class builds its ideological hegemony in society. It is also for this reason that we must congratulate COSATU, and all the artists who participated in the CD to be launched today – who are in any case workers themselves – for this initiative. This is an important part of the ideological and cultural offensive by the working class. Let the workers and all the people of our country support this release. As the SACP we will play our part in ensuring that this release reaches the furthest corners of our country – BUT AT A PRICE OF COURSE, AS VAVI AND MYSELF KNOW! (These are some of the secrets of General Secretaries that cannot just be disclosed anyhow, they are on a need to know basis!).

We also challenge the public broadcaster to air these songs, as they are the songs sung and loved by the overwhelming majority of our people. We also challenge all private radio stations and our community radio stations to play these songs, as part of promoting our own music, particularly the music of the workers and poor of our country.

Workers mobilise to defeat the scourge of HIV/AIDS and for an overwhelming ANC electoral victory

We celebrate COSATU’s anniversary on World Aids Day. As the SACP we salute the role that COSATU has played in fighting this pandemic. We are also pleased that we are celebrating 2003 World Aids Day with our country more united than ever in its approach to this scourge. We now have a comprehensive awareness, prevention and treatment strategy.

As Cde Nelson Mandela says, we must never ever allow apartheid to return to our country, in whatever form or guise. We today here, as we celebrate World Aids Day we must also say NEVER AGAIN MUST WE ALLOW OUR NATION TO TEAR ITSELF APART ON A STRATEGY TO COMBAT THE HIV/AIDS PANDEMIC! We call upon all the workers of our country, and all our people, to unite and mobilise all their energies behind the implementation of the government’s comprehensive strategy on HIV/AIDS. Government alone, without mass mobilisation and participation of our people, can never defeat this scourge.

Last, but most important, we call on all the workers of our country to mobilise our people to register for the 2004 elections and vote the only party that has proved itself the best vehicle to advance workers’ interests in the current period – The African National Congress. Let us return the ANC with an overwhelming victory. COSATU has done it in the past, and will do it again next year.

With these words we say happy 18th Birthday COSATU… With and For the Workers and the Poor!

Towards social justice and access to decent health care for all  

By Mark Heywood, National Secretary, Treatment Action Campaign

Developments over the last two months mark a watershed in the history of the AIDS pandemic in South Africa. The decision by the South African Cabinet to approve the Operational Plan for a Comprehensive Treatment and Care for HIV and AIDS on the 19th November 2003 means that we can now begin to take up the real issues of ensuring that treatment, care and support is available to all people living with HIV and AIDS and antiretroviral treatment for those with HIV who need it.

A united effort is required by labour federations, communities, government and the private sector to implement this programme, which is essentially a programme to prevent the further spread of HIV and to ensure that a comprehensive management programme is in place for those already living with HIV.

The key challenges that lie ahead remain the struggle to end unfair discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS. This must include public campaigns to destigmatise the disease, the promotion of safer sex and a national campaign calling for people to test for HIV. There needs to be mass education and training about antiretroviral treatment in the context of the proper management of HIV and AIDS including how to eat healthy food, limit alcohol intake and stop smoking, and exercising regularly.

Juxtaposed with this good news about an ARV roll out plan are the statistics jointly released by the United Nations AIDS Programme and the World Health Organisation.

Global Statistics – December 2003

Global Summary of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic - December 2003

Number of people living with HIV/AIDS Total 42 million
  Adults 38.6 million
  Women 19.2 million
  Children under 15 yrs 3.2 million
People newly infected with HIV in 2002 Total 5 million
  Adults 4.2 Million
  Women 2 million
  Children under 15 years 800 000
AIDS deaths in 2002 Total 3.1 million
  Adults 2.5 million
  Women 1.2 million
  Children under 15 years 610 000

2000 people died in the September 11th event in the US.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst affected region in the world. AIDS killed approximately 2.3 million people in 2003. Poor African women are 1.2 times more likely to be infected with HIV than men. Sexual violence and coercion of women and young girls is common all over the world. But if we look at Africa we have the AIDS pandemic, poverty, and high levels of illiteracy, which all contribute to increasing the vulnerability and increased risk of women and young girls from being infected with HIV.

The World Health Organisation

Five million people became infected with HIV worldwide and 3 million died this year alone - that's 8,000 people every day. WHO estimates that six million people worldwide are in immediate need of AIDS treatment.

It has set out a challenge for world leaders to commit to ensuring that half that number of people receive treatment by 2005.

WHO further reiterates that a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS must include prevention, treatment and care.

“Evidence and experience shows that rapidly increasing the availability of antiretroviral treatment in line with 3 by 5 targets can lead to more people knowing their HIV status and more openness about AIDS. Individuals on effective treatment are also likely to be less infectious and less able to spread the virus. Good treatment programmes will make more people come forward for testing HIV/AIDS status. Treatment can therefore contribute to the rapid acceleration of prevention.”

The anti-retroviral rollout and what are the tasks

Palliative Care/Home Based Care
Antiretroviral Treatment
Treatment of all opportunistic illnesses
Roll out of mother to child prevention programmes
Voluntary Counselling and Testing
PREVENTION, NUTRITION

While people have the choice to use traditional medicines no single traditional medicine has been registered by the Medicines Controls Council as an anti AIDS drug. By contrast 17 anti-retroviral drugs in various combinations have been registered by the MCC as being safe and effective in keeping the viral load down and ultimately undetectable in a persons body thus allowing the person to restore his or her CD4 count and immune system and thus remaining healthy and strong.

The key challenges remain the urgent need to address all forms of socio-economic inequalities, gender imbalances and in particular violence against women.

Campaigning for national health insurance to ensure that all people get access to quality health care is of critical importance. Social security needs to be improved, with an increase in uptake of existing grants and social security to cover those people who are unemployed and destitute like a Basic Income Grant.

If the AIDS epidemic is not controlled and a concerted effort made to save the lives of the estimated 5 million people already living with HIV in our country, we risk loosing all the gains we have made. Many people paid for these gains with their life to ensure that we live in a vibrant democracy with a very progressive constitution, which guarantees people the right to life and dignity.

What can we do to ensure that the implementation of the Comprehensive Treatment and Care for HIV and AIDS is effective and benefits the poorest of the poor?

Voluntary Counselling and Testing

All communities must be mobilised. We need to participate actively in campaigning for everyone who is sexually active to know his or her HIV status. To test early is very important if you are diagnosed with HIV. The longer a person living with HIV can delay the onset of taking ARVs the better.

Once you know your HIV status you must be counselled on how to stay negative by practising safer sex by using a condom or abstaining. If you are diagnosed HIV positive, then you must be counselled on how to live positively and lead a healthy life. Preventing re-infection and preventing the further spread of HIV is as important for a person living with HIV.

District Health Care

Communities need to be mobilised to participate in building efficient district health services. We need to elect people from the community on to district health committees to represent the rights of all patients and especially people living with HIV and AIDS. Communities must campaign for increased expenditure at primary health care level so that ARVs are provided with all the necessary services available to monitor progress and ensure that people comply and do not get seriously ill of adverse side effects that are sometimes associated with treatment. Communities need to target the private sector and local industries to invest in upgrading the district health facilities. AIDS Service Organisations must get involved in training lay counsellors or treatment buddies to assist and support those living with HIV on treatment to comply and take care of themselves. This is why openness about one’s HIV status is a critical component of taking ARVs.

Communities need to support their local health care worker trade union in campaigning for more health care workers and increases in the salary they earn.

Campaign for cheaper treatment:

In September 2002, TAC and a range of its allies filed a complaint against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) at the Competition Commission. The complaint says that these companies are charging excessive prices for their antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) and that this is "directly responsible for the premature, predictable and avoidable deaths of people living with HIV/AIDS". GSK manufactures various adult and paediatric formulations of AZT and lamivudine. BI manufactures nevirapine.

On 16 October 2003, the Competition Commission announced that they have decided to refer the complaint to the Competition Tribunal. They released a press statement stating that GSK and BI have contravened the Competition Act of 1998 by abusing their dominant positions in the market. The Commission found that GSK and BI have engaged in the following forms of prohibited conduct:

  • Excessive pricing to the detriment of consumers;
  • Denying a competitor access to an essential facility; and
  • Engaging in an exclusionary act.

Since the announcement there have been negotiations between the pharmaceutical companies and the complainants, including TAC, COSATU and CEPPAWU. It is possible that these negotiations may lead to a settlement of the case, which will be another victory in the struggle for affordable medicines. Communities however will need to continue to put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to drop the prices of all ARVs and treatment for opportunistic infections and to issue voluntary licences for patented essential drugs needed for the effective management of HIV and AIDS. This will increase competition and result in a further drop in the price of essential life saving drugs. This needs continued mass mobilisation and pressure. The SACP has a role in this regard.

The SACP has an important role in leading a campaign to get people to test voluntarily for HIV and know their status. The campaign to improve the public sector to ensure decent health care for all is also a very crucial campaign that must be lead by the workers and the poor.

We all need to be knowledgeable on all aspects of the management of HIV and AIDS. This includes the science of HIV and treatment and management of this disease.

All forms of unfair discrimination on the basis of HIV only serves to increase the stigma associated with HIV and results in people not being prepared to come forward to take a test or reveal their HIV status – because all they will get in return is punishment in the form of discrimination. The SACP can lead a campaign to moralise the AIDS epidemic by calling on people to care for each other by using a condom when having sex.

The struggle for equality must begin by addressing all forms of gender imbalances. We must campaign for improved access to social services – with a focus on women and young girls. This will directly impact on reducing their vulnerability to getting infected with HIV. Sex as a commodity will then not be the only option to get food and look after the family.

Private property and its impact on women’s oppression must also be challenged. This will include women’s inheritance rights and access to education for young girls.

 

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