Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has requested for more clarity on the details contained in the report on the alleged forced sterilisation of HIV positive women in South Africa.
In February, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) released a report on how 48 HIV positive women were sterilised forcefully at 15 public hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
The Commission revealed that women would be forced to sign consent forms under the guise that they were approving a caesarean section and the nurses and doctors would go ahead and sterilise them.
The Commission for Gender Equality had given the Health Department three months to respond to the recommendations contained in the report.
Immediately after the report, Mkhize met with the CGE to go over its contents and promised to respond accordingly. He later requested an extension of the three month period to last Friday.
“We obviously are concerned that they did not respond in good time. We are also concerned that the Department of Health did not reach out to us and to the women when the report was issued. You know with those sorts of findings you would expect that the department would want to be accountable to the South African public and to the women and address this matter as a matter of urgency,” says Co-Founder of Her Rights Initiative, Promise Mthembu.
According to Dr Manala Makua, Chief Director of Maternal and Child Health in the Health Department, Mkhize responded to the Commission for Gender Equality last week Friday.
“The minister just actually wrote a letter to them requesting that they need to pick up from where they left so that they can further get some clarity on some of the contents of the report and also to get some further understanding in terms of the details furnished in that report,” says Makua.
The Commission for Gender Equality has also responded to Mkhize’s requests.
“The Gender Commission has written back to the department to say there’s certain further information that it required and requested from the department and the Ministry of Health. We are awaiting feedback from the Department of Health. We have also received feedback from the HPCSA in so far as the recommendations are concerned, we are happy with that but further engagements are happening between the Department of Health and the Minister of Health with the Commission for Gender Equality,” says CGE Spokesperson Javu Baloyi.
The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Ntombovuyo Veronica Mente says they are taking legal action against the Health Department.
“At the end of this process what we need is reparation which they are in different forms. The ladies themselves have suggested the reparations they are looking for and if we can get those things done for us that will be the success of this particular fight. If the minister says I don’t believe all of you that’s what he actually means but he is the custodian of the files, he is sitting with the files, what is stopping him from commissioning these files to his office and then believe them,” says Mente.
Advocate Dali Mpofu will represent the women in the court battle to force the department to compensate the women who are allegedly victims of forced sterilisation.
Below is reaction to allegations of forced sterilisation of 48 women: