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Source: Department of Labour
Title: Ramashia: Statement on Nedlac HIV/AIDS task team
STATEMENT ON THE NEDLAC HIV/AIDS TASK TEAM BY ADV RAMS RAMASHIA,
DIRECTOR- GENERAL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR, 19 February
Highly esteemed colleagues from various media houses, I have called
this press conference to address you in my capacity as Overall
Convenor of Government at Nedlac.
Confusion has been reigning supreme in the minds of the public
regarding the process and the outcome of the HIV/AIDS task team
set-up by the Nedlac Management Committee on 20 September
As Government's chief negotiator at Nedlac, I have deemed it proper
and fitting to discharge my obligation to inform the citizenry on
the true state of affairs regarding this matter and thereby dispel
mendacious perceptions and debunk a myth which some of the media
houses have helped to propagate; ostensibly because they believed
the same to be true. Indeed some of these half-truths were packaged
with the smartest form of sophistication, which would elude even
the finest investigative journalist. But no amount of spin
doctoring can constitute a sufficient substitute for what is
truthful, accurate and factual.
Various media reports have suggested that spokespersons of the
Labour constituency and the Treatment Action Campaign,
respectively; have claimed that the HIV/AIDS task team has reached
an agreement at Nedlac, which has been signed by Labour and
Community and that the Government and Organised Business
constituencies were refusing to sign an agreement whose
architecture and tapestry they participated in designing.
I would like to categorically and unequivocally state today as I
did in a media statement I released on 1 December 2002 that the
assertion that Nedlac parties have reached agreement on this matter
is false, and devoid of truth.
An account of a chronological order of events regarding this matter
will help clarify issues:
1. In the Management Committee of the 20th of September 2002, it
was agreed that the above task team be established to engage on the
issue of HIV/AIDS with an intention to find consensus on how social
partners could work together to address the issue of
2. A document co-sponsored by Cosatu and TAC, arising out of a
conference held on 27 - 29 June 2002 was tabled as a basis for a
discussion aimed at galvanising a common position on issues such as
voluntary testing, counselling, prevention, treatment etc. The
title of the said document is: "REPORTS AND RESOLUTIONS OF THE
COSATU/TAC NATIONAL HIV/AIDS TREATMENT CONGRESS - AUGUST
3. The Labour and Community constituencies proposed that an
agreement, on the content of the said document, must be reached by
the 1st of December 2002 and be announced on World AIDS Day.
4. Government constituency placed on the record the fact that given
the intractability of the issues raised in the text and what was
demanded of Government to do, it was unlikely that an agreement on
everything proposed on the document would be reached by the
proposed date. Government, however, reiterated its commitment to
work with social partners with the intention to reach consensus on
as many issues as possible by the said date.
5. Government also indicated that there was a task-team which has
been established, consisting of officials from Treasury and the
Department of Health to carry out a comprehensive research on what
more Government could do in addition to what it is already doing to
further intensify its efforts in fighting against HIV/AIDS. The
research would also make findings on what resources and
infrastructure is needed to achieve that. Government also invited
social partners to participate in this process to ensure an
6. Government noted that many of the programs proposed in the
Cosatu/TAC draft text already formed part of Government's
interventions in addressing the challenges of HIV/AIDS. It was
further noted that some of those interventions could be further
enhanced by the contribution of social partners.
7. Government requested that the aspects of the text that deal with
creating pilot sites for rolling out of antiretrovirals be square
'bracketed' because it pre-empted the outcome of the process
referred to above.
8. Further more, Government could not commit itself to targets and
time frames proposed in the draft text without a full appreciation
of the financial and infrastructural consequences, which were yet
to be quantified through the research.
9. In the period leading to 1 December 2002, the Sunday Independent
newspaper published an article that suggested that an agreement has
been reached at Nedlac, which; according to the said report "shall
result in Government rolling out the supply of antiretrovirals in
all State hospitals".
10. Government released a statement to correct the inaccurate
report. The Government's statement indicated that Government was
committed to engaging social partners to find a joint solution in
responding to the challenge of HIV/AIDS, but further clarified that
no agreement had yet been reached. The said statement was carried
in the SABC radio news bulletins on the evening of 1 December
11. The task team has not met since the beginning of the year, in
part because some of its members from Business, Labour and
Community constituency were still on holiday until the latter part
12. During the period leading to the Management Committee
originally scheduled for 17 January 2003, Cosatu spokesperson,
Vukani Mde, was quoted in the media as saying that Government and
Business must sign "an agreement" reached at Nedlac before the
Management Committee. This statement undoubtedly created a false
impression in the minds of those not conversant with the facts,
that the Nedlac Task Team had indeed reached an agreement.
13. At the Management Committee held on the 31st of January 2003,
the HIV/AIDS committee was required to report on its work. At that
meeting it was noted that while substantial progress was made since
the establishment of the task team, negotiations on the bracketed
text have not yet been concluded. At the same meeting the Business
constituency also announced that it had compiled a document, which
would be circulated after the meeting.
14. I indicated to the Management Committee that the perception
created by certain individuals within the Labour constituency and
in the TAC; that an agreement has been reached and that Government
was refusing to sign "an agreement" was not helping the process but
that it created confusion which could render the negotiation
15. The Labour constituency announced at the Management Committee
meeting that they together with TAC and other civil society groups
were organising a march scheduled to take place on the opening of
16. A Government delegation indicated, that while the right to
protest is a democratic one and sanctioned by the Constitution,
that it was unwise to resort to that option while the task team was
still seeking to find consensus on bracketed issues.
17. Discussions in the Management Committee of 31 January 2003
clearly reflect that the Management Committee of Nedlac, which
include Labour and Community constituencies, do not share the
perception that there is an agreement that Government and Organised
Business were refusing to sign.
18. Indeed it was at that Management Committee that all
constituencies noted that substantial progress has been made
regarding this matter and the various constituencies were urged to
complete their consultative and mandating processes with their
principals so that the task team may conclude its work.
19. It was at the same meeting that as Government Convenor, I
appealed to convenors of other constituencies to beseech their
spokespersons to desist from issuing inaccurate statements that
suggest that Nedlac parties have reached an agreement on issues,
which we were still negotiating and consulting on.
20. On Friday, 14 February 2003, a full-page advert was placed in
the Business Day. The introduction read in part:
"THIS DOCUMENT WAS AGREED TO BY THE NEDLAC HIV/AIDS TASK TEAM MADE
OF GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS, LABOUR AND COMMUNITY NEGOTIATORS ON 29
Government vehemently denies that what appears in advert was agreed
to and would like to challenge anyone who avers or asserts the
contrary to submit proof of such agreement.
When asked about the so-called agreement during an SABC interview,
the President confirmed that no such agreement existed.
Yesterday's Cape Times carried an article entitled "Mbeki's denial
of HIV pact upsets Cosatu". In the said article Cosatu was reported
to have said that the President's utterances were "a wilful
distortion of the nature of Nedlac process".
Not only is Cosatu's statement a misrepresentation of the truth,
but is also indespicably and unjustly casts aspersion on the
credibility and integrity of the President. This has to be viewed
in a serious light especially because the President's utterances
were an accurate reflection of the truth.
When social partners conclude any negotiation process at Nedlac, a
Nedlac report is compiled. Such report indicates areas of agreement
and areas in which parties disagree. As Convenor of Government, I
would like to place on record that no such report has yet been
compiled. The reason is simple. The task team has not concluded its
work. In fact a perusal of the advert in question also testifies to
the fact that the text constitutes "work in progress".
Instead of posturing and grandstanding on such a serious and
critical issue, Government is of the opinion that the task team
should reconvene as soon as possible to discuss proposals aimed at
strengthening the progress that Government and other constituencies
are already rolling-out. We remain convinced that a partnership
approach to addressing the challenge of HIV/AIDS will be in the
best interest of the country.
Government would also like to place on record that while parties
continue to engage at Nedlac; Government continues to carry out its
programs aimed at addressing the challenges of HIV/AIDS.