TAC mulls civil disobedience plan

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) may embark on a campaign of civil disobedience to push the government into a commitment to antiretroviral treatment programmes, the TAC said on Wednesday.

The lobby group said a sustained national programme of civil disobedience could include hunger strikes, disruptions of traffic, and meetings and events that could lead to arrests of their members and ensure groups of people were treated in defiance of government policy.

This would be a new departure for the TAC and broader civil society.

“Such action would be based on the principle of the right to life, dignity, equality and equitable access to health care services. We have the capacity to begin, escalate and sustain a campaign of civil disobedience because of the urgency of our epidemic.”

However the TAC’s national executive committee has recommended that the organisation continue with social mobilisation for a treatment plan and postpone its civil disobedience campaign until February 28 next year. The recommendation was made following discussions about a possible antiretroviral programme with Deputy President Jacob Zuma last month.

“This is an important concession to show government our good faith,” the lobby group said.
The TAC said that its protests so far had been models of civic restraint and it had never stepped outside the law in mass demonstrations or meetings.

“Millions of lives depend on our co-operation and joint work between government and civil society,” the TAC said. The TAC said Zuma had asked it to delay its deadline of December 1 for a commitment to antiretroviral treatment, for three months.

“This is what TAC members and allies must discuss. What can we do in good faith to ensure that the government fulfils its obligations and still maintain our freedom to act when we are convinced that government does not fulfill its commitments to us,” the TAC said.

The TAC said social mobilisation, increased public awareness and pressure were the only guarantees of agreement and implementation of a treatment plan.

“In the absence of trust, continued social mobilisation is our only guarantee to save lives… What (the) TAC and our allies can discuss is the form of our mobilisation: do we change from legal protest to civil disobedience?”

The TAC said it would not rest until it had achieved a treatment plan as a monument to everyone who had died of Aids-related illnesses and had given hope to all people living with HIV/Aids that their right to life and dignity will be equally valued, respected and protected. - Sapa