We need money to fight Aids, not to live a fancy lifestyle - Nehawu

2015-12-01 19:15
(Jenni Evans, News24)

(Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - Striking National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union members briefly stopped singing outside Parliament on Tuesday to mark World Aids Day.

"Our families need this money from the performance bonuses so that when we take our treatment, at least we will have something in our stomachs," said branch treasurer Akhona Busakwe after a moment of silence was held.

"There are people who are dear to my heart who are living with the HI [human immunodeficiency] virus," said Busakwe.

"When you get this job in Parliament, it is huge. People count on you to help them.

"When they need information about something or there is a bereavement, someone will remember you work in Parliament."

Busakwe said Nehawu was not striking because the members want  money for fancy clothes and cars, but because people count on them.

"This morning I was thinking how lucky we are to have our health minister [Aaron Motsoaledi]. Government came to terms with the HIV crisis and the support people get is overwhelming. If there is an area [in which] they are excelling, it is this.

"People discover when they are pregnant that they have HIV/Aids. They are now told what to do. They can have a child who is not going to be affected by it and who... [can graduate] from university."

- Read more: Family determined to turn HIV/Aids on its head

She said this was in contrast to the denialism of the past when the government did not accept a link between HIV and Aids, with previous health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang advocating garlic and lemons instead of antiretrovirals that are now commonplace.

Busakwe said she remembered going home to Queenstown at that time and seeing three or four funerals every weekend.

But now people speak openly about their condition and do not equate it to a death sentence.

But, with the current socioeconomic pressures, families are struggling financially and sometimes they just need food to be able to take the medicine that keeps the virus at bay.

- Read more: ANC is cheating us - Nehawu Parliament strikers

Busakwe said that was when people like her are called on for help.

"It is frustrating to see managers from the same background battling against our struggles," she said.

"That is why the Ses'khona People's Rights Movement came [on Tuesday] because they know how far our salaries and bonuses go."

Nehawu is in its third week of a strike over how performance bonuses should be calculated.

Negotiations with the presiding officers of Parliament were expected to continue on Tuesday afternoon.

They have been off work since November 6 and, apart from a three-day suspension, they stand to lose pay for every day they have not worked.

Busakwe said she was worried about HIV-positive colleagues who are on strike.

"People will get stressed and now, if you are living with the condition, what does stress cause to your life? This is not about buying nice clothes and cars. There is a lot more to it. Look beyond that."

Read more on:    nehawu  |  cape town  |  hiv aids  |  protests

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