News24, 26 November 2002, SACP criticises private sector

Johannesburg - South Africa's private sector was plainly failing to contribute effectively to combating the HIV/Aids pandemic, South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande said on Tuesday.

Nzimande, who is also the chairman of the Financial Sector Campaign Forum (FSCF) was addressing the Aids Consortium in Johannesburg.

Nzimande said he believed there were significant resources available in the private sector that could be mobilised to fight the pandemic.

"This is shown by the discrimination of people living with HIV/Aids in the financial sector, and the fact that private appropriation of knowledge in the form of patent and intellectual property rights can be a barrier to making available affordable medicines," Nzimande said.

He said the FSCF in 2001 engaged Standard Bank and the Banking Council because they were evicting HIV/Aids orphans from houses bonded to their late parents.

"In many cases, these evictions are compounded by policies of insurance companies which exclude HIV/Aids cover. These policies are cruel, inhumane and reflect the poverty of private commercial banks and the insurance industry in our country."

The FSCF was calling on the Aids Consortium and all South Africans to intensifying the struggle against multi-national pharmaceutical companies to provide cheaper drugs, not only anti-retrovirals, but also drugs to combat the many curable diseases afflicting the country and continent.

It was also calling for the intensification of the struggle against HIV/Aids discrimination in all spheres of society, in particular in the workplace and in the financial sector.

Nzimande said the hosting of the Financial Sector Summit by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on August 20, and the agreements reached therein marked one of the most historic and significant gains for the workers and the poor.

"Through the SACP-led campaign for the transformation and the diversification of the financial sector, far-reaching agreements were concluded. This marks a new era towards the transformation of banks and the financial sector in general and the development of a credit regime orientated towards the development needs of the majority of the people of our country."

During the campaign the SACP had demanded and, at the Nedlac Summit, had obtained agreement on legislation and policy framework for co-operative banks and other types of micro-credit, financial co-operatives.

"During our campaign the building of co-operative banks came to be the major demand from amongst our people."

Related to this was an agreement on major banks working towards universal access to banking services for the poor, particularly the rural masses and those who received old-age pensions.

"A commitment to exploring automatic insurance cover of up to a bond of R150 000 for all, including those of our people who are HIV positive is indeed a path breaking achievement.

"This will go a long way towards saving houses for Aids orphans and towards ending unfair discrimination against the HIV positive."

Nzimande said the challenge was to continue with mobilisation to ensure that commitments made at the Nedlac Summit were implemented.

"All the agreements reached are but the first, albeit very important, step in the struggle for transformation of the financial sector,"

Nzimande said the FSCS had committed itself to meet monthly at Nedlac to implement the agreements.

The group could not leave the implementation of the Nedlac agreements to the bosses as this would mean the unabated continuation of racist and other discriminatory practices in the banks and the financial sector as a whole, Nzimande said.