Budget and Expenditure Monitoring Forum (BEMF) budget action

On 25 February 2014, the day before Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan presented his 2014-15 Budget speech to the nation, a group of activists drawn from a wide range of civil society organisations presented an alternate budget speech to a large crowd of media, activists and members of the public outside Parliament detailing what they would like to see reflected in the budget. With powerful messages of ‘Fix the Budget’ and ‘Tax the Rich for decent housing, education, health’, civil society ensured that its voice was heard.

The public action outside Parliament was preceded by a pre-budget day workshop with community members hosted by BEMF. The key objective was to enhance public participation in the budgetary processes. According to Thoko Madonko, the BEMF coordinator, for this to be possible, communities need access to information and access to independent, alternative budget analysis and budget literacy.

Know your Constitution stakeholders’ conference

SECTION27 hosted the Know your Constitution stakeholder’s conference on 24 and 25 February. The Know your Constitution campaign initially involved 13 civil society organisations, which locate their work in the Constitution of South Africa. The primary objectives of this loose coalition are to get easy access to hardcopy Constitutions for people in any of the eleven official languages or in Braille as well as to help foster constitutional literacy amongst communities in order for people living in South Africa to be aware of what their rights are.

The stakeholder conference drew in officials from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Department of Basic Education, the South African Human Rights Commission and numerous NGOs, such as FunDza, Street Law, Cormsa, Health-e and the Wits Justice Project.

The Conference was a success as all stakeholders resolved to collaborate in order to ensure the success of the campaign. Future collaboration within the KyC campaign will focus on areas where there is a mutual overlap in work areas. It was also resolved to infuse gender issues in every aspect of the work of coalition members.

For more information on the Know your Constitution campaign, please contact fish@section27.org.za.

Sanitation press conference and work (30 January 2014)

SECTION27 hosted a press conference at its offices in Braamfontein where it revealed the true state of sanitation in numerous Limpopo schools, which not only infringe on learners’ and teachers’ right to dignity but also pose hazards to the safety of those who use them.

SECTION27 has been involved in the fight for decent infrastructure in Limpopo schools for two years. SECTION27 called on large construction companies who had confessed to collusion in World Cup tendering to assist the government TO urgently ensure that decent toilets are installed in Limpopo schools.

SECTION27 in Mpumalanga

SECTION27 has been working in Mpumalanga since 2013 and has a staff member – Sfiso Nkala- permanently located in the province. In this interview he speaks about SECTION27’s intervention at a clinic in Ermelo called MN Cindi. The clinic was featured on SABC1 in August last year because of the numerous problems it faced. The clinic was going to be closed down, in order for it to be renovated, to the further detriment of the local population who would have had nowhere to go in search of treatment. Comrade Sifiso explains the role SECTION27 played in addressing this situation.

JP: Please tell us about the clinic in Ermelo, Mpumalanga you were assisting.

SN: The MN Cindi clinic was in a very bad condition and needed urgent renovations. It had sanitation problems, broader infrastructure problems and a lack of adequate equipment and stationery. Individuals paid by the Development Bank Southern Africa (DBSA) came in wanting to do renovations, which was a good thing. However, this meant that the clinic would have to be closed down and its staff would stop providing health care services to the population. Councilors within the area asked SECTION27 to intervene.

NM: How did you deal with this situation?

SN: The first option for us was to go ahead with the clinic closure and refer the patients to nearby clinics. These clinics, however, were formerly three roomed houses that have been transformed into clinics and are already catering for more patients than they ought to. Its worrying that most people who used this clinic did not even know that the refurbishment was taking place, even the clinic committee itself. The other option was that the clinic would not close. The last option was to find temporary units to provide services while the renovations were taking place, which we supported.

NM: Which course of action did you chose and why?

SN: After a long struggle we managed to get two mobile clinics for consultations and a tent that serves as a waiting room from the municipality. We also managed to get mobile toilets as the permanent structures could not be used. These toilets are going to be used by both the patients and the staff of the clinic. The third request we made was for clean, drinkable water. This last challenge has not been fully resolved even though new taps have been installed. We managed in this way to ensure that people have access to healthcare services. We will continue working with both the municipality and the community to improve the healthcare system in the province. VIVA!