South Africa - Gender 
SA Mpumalanga Province serves papers on anti-rape volunteers 

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afrol News / AENS, 12 May - The defiant health MEC of the South African Province Mpumalanga, Sibongile Manana, ignored public opinion this week and served an eviction notice on anti-rape volunteers who provide free trauma councelling and medicine to women and children at State hospitals.

Mpumalanga province in South AfricaManana’s High Court eviction notice against the Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project (Grip) follows almost 18 months of persecution after the province banned volunteers from giving anti-Aids drugs to rape survivors. 

Grip attempted to defy the ban, but was forced to back down after Manana accused the volunteer housewives of undermining the ruling African National Congress (ANC), making President Thabo Mbeki look like a fool and of ‘poisoning’ black patients by giving them free access to anti-retroviral drugs such as AZT and 3TC.

Manana’s latest attempts to oust Grip from two of Mpumalanga’s largest hospitals comes just days after the ANC and a coalition of ANC aligned trade unions and civic organisations praised Anglo-American for giving free anti-Aids drugs to its workers.

Manana’s antics have sparked widespread condemnation within the province and this week attracted the attention of the United States government, which appointed a political officer to monitor the situation from its Johannesburg consulate.

Manana declined to comment of the issue on Friday but has previously insisted that Grip failed to get written permission to operate at the Rob Ferreira hospital in the capital Nelspruit and the Themba hospital in neighbouring Kabokweni.

She has refused to explain why Grip has been singled out for prosecution and the 48 other volunteer organisations working at the hospitals have not been evicted for failing to get written authorization.

Manana has also claimed that Grip is putting her department in an "awkward position" because rape survivors elsewhere in the province are beginning to demand access to anti-Aids drugs. Government policy currently prohibits the distribution of anti-Aids drugs to patients that may have HIV/Aids in State hospitals.

Manana has also refused to comment on why the rural poor are denied access to potentially life-saving medicines when her government medical aid scheme guarantees her and other senior officials access to the most expensive anti-retrovirals at taxpayer expense.

- Grip does not accept that [Manana’s] discomfort and embarrassment are good enough reasons to deny rape survivors access to life saving drugs, said Grip’s attorney Richard Spoor on Friday. "Manana’s political dogma displays a callous and willful disregard for the lives of women and children rape survivors."

Spoor also stressed that Grip’s major role was not distributing anti-retrovirals, and was instead counselling rape survivors free-of-charge 24-hours per day.

The organisation also gives survivors clean clothing, toiletries and fluffy toys immediately after they report for treatment at hospitals, and helps them file police reports as well as providing councelling and transport during any resulting court cases.

Spoor stresses that up to 70% of the rape survivors treated by Grip are children younger than 18. The organisation’s pioneering work, without any institutional or financial assistance, prompted the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund to award Grip research and training funding for one-year.

The Fund has also indicated that it intends using Grip as a prototype for the whole of South Africa. Spoor said Grip hoped to convince Manana to retract the eviction order amicably, but would challenge the order and Manana’s conduct in court if necessary.

By Sizwe samaYende, African Eye News Service (AENS) 

© African Eye News Service (AENS).

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