Police arrest over 100 community health workers and activists staging peaceful night vigil outside Free State Health MECs office
BLOEMFONTEIN, 10th July: Over 100 community healthcare workers and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) members were arrested during the early hours of this morning by police in Bloemfontein following a night vigil sit-in at Bophelo House, the head office of the Free State Department of Health. The vigil started last night. The group, mostly elder women, have been taken to Park Road Police Station in Bloemfontein. They had been relieved of their duties as community healthcare workers without any notice and attempts to engage decision makers have been fruitless. A TAC leader in the Free State was assaulted by police during the arrests and has bruises to his face.
The community healthcare workers staged the sit in after months of trying to engage Malakoane and his officials. They had previously demanded a meeting with Free State MEC of Health Benny Malakoane following a sit in at Bophelo House on 27 June. Earlier written requests have also led to zero. Both Magashule and Malakoane have consistently ignored the plight of the community health workers. This latest sit-in signalled the start of a campaign of civil disobedience in the Free State to demand that Malakoane be removed from his position given the desperate state of the health system in the province.
Those taking part in the sit-in were exercising their constitutional right to speak out against the failings in and collapse of the Free State health system. The TAC condemns the police for the excessive use of force in arresting the peaceful protesters. The TAC have sent an urgent request to ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe for an urgent meeting and will also be contacting National Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
Please follow @TAC on Twitter and #FSHealthCrisis for continuous updates from the scene in Bloemfontein.
For more information contact:
Anele Yawa, TAC General Secretary – 079 328 1215
Sello Mokhalipi, TAC Free State Chairperson – 078 927 2369