/ 7 May 2010

Aids Law Project discovers the power of a name

The Aids Law Project is relaunching itself on Friday and a host of high profile international guests, including Irish activist Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, have come to join the celebrations.

But there’s just one problem — red tape could block the organisation from operating under its new name.

The project says it is no longer enough to focus on Aids without looking at the bigger picture, such as the need to improve health services, education and food access.

Hence the new name: SECTION27 — a reference to a key clause in the Constitution that states that everyone has the right to healthcare services, sufficient food and water, social security and emergency medical treatment.

‘Our intention is to take advantage of the Constitution to put new pressure on the government and the private health industry to move more quickly and effectively to provide proper healthcare ,” the project’s executive director Mark Heywood told the Mail & Guardian.

But the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) has refused to register the name SECTION27. Cipro says it implies ‘governmental patronage”, could cause damage and is ‘misleading and undesirable”.

When the project objected to the ruling, Cipro upheld its original decision, saying ‘the registrar cannot allow or approve names that construe itself [sic] as the provision of the Act of Parliament” and that the project would ‘need to obtain a written consent from the Parliament of South Africa” to use the name.

Heywood is unconvinced: ‘It’s very unfortunate when an important state body shows that it can’t do its job.” The Aids Law Project has now launched a case against the registrar and Cipro in the North Gauteng High Court. ‘Constitution packs a real punch,”