THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Aids activists give NAC ultimatum
Bertha Shoko, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
October 29, 2006

MORE than 35 HIV and Aids activists stormed the National Aids Council headquarters in Harare at 9am on Thursday refusing to leave until officials gave them a written undertaking to act on their demands for life-prolonging Anti-Retroviral drugs.

Some were armed with placards which read "NAC board must resign" and "Treat 600 000 now",

After meeting NAC officials, the activists, led by Joao Zangarati aka as General Gunpowder, threatened to return to the NAC offices for a "die in" if their demands were not met in a week’s time.

Some had walked into town from suburbs as far away as Glen View and Mbare. They brought with them light blankets and heavy jackets in preparation for a number of nights in the open.

One of them, Membo Chirere, told The Standard: "We are not moving from here. We are sleeping here. As you can see (taking a blanket out of her bag) we are very much prepared. As for what we are going to eat we don’t care; we are dead already. Tajaira kutsanya chero tisingade."

After hearing the commotion outside the NAC offices, deputy director Raymond Yekeye came out and invited their representatives to the boardroom for "discussions".

The protestors turned down the invitation, saying they felt already marginalised by the organisation. They insisted on a conference under what they called the "avocado tree office" outside the NAC headquarters.

"We don’t want to wear and tear your office carpets with our cracked feet," cried one activist, with heavy sarcasm.

Yekeye tried in vain to "sweet talk" the activists, into entering his office, but they refused. He was handed their petition, after which negotiations began under the avocado tree.

In the petition, the protestors demanded that all people living with HIV and Aids (PLWAs) be supplied with ARVs regularly, preferably through the government’s district structures.

They also demanded that the one-year waiting period for ARVs for government programmes be reduced to three months, saying most of their friends and relatives had died on the so-called "waiting list".

Yekeye then asked the activists to leave the premises to give the NAC time to look into the their demands.

The protesters refused to leave until the NAC gave them a written guarantee to act on their demands in a week’s time. They left around 3pm.

Later, speaking to journalists after the negotiations General Gunpowder said: "We will as sure as hell be back. If they think they can just shoo us away like little children, they are in for the surprise of their lives. We are going to force them into action.

"We will not stand and watch while our brothers and sisters die in pain at home with not even a cent for painkillers. Enough is enough. One week is all we are giving them and this time we will be back with pots and pans to camp here. This is phase one of the ARV Chimurenga. At least they know now that we are serious and are just not playing to the gallery."

According to government statistics, of the 1,8 million people living with HIV and Aids only 40 000 are accessing ARVs, compared with 600 000-plus people in urgent need of the miracle drugs.

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.