Mbete: ‘TB is a matter of life and death. What took us so long?’

Baleka Mbete. Picture: Lisa Hnatowicz
Baleka Mbete. Picture: Lisa Hnatowicz

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete says that MPs must be at the forefront of the fight against tuberculosis (TB) in order to save thousands of lives that needlessly and prematurely end each year in South Africa.

Mbete, speaking at the launch of the “South African Chapter of Global TB Caucus” for Parliamentarians at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Tuesday night – also reminded delegates of former president Nelson Mandela’s conquering of the disease while he was in prison.

“I’m wondering what took us so long. This is such a serious matter; this is a matter of life and death. This year we are celebrating Madiba’s centenary and [he] was the first person to be exemplary about this but we still kind of ignored [it]. But thank God we are now here,” Mbete said.

She said that TB could have robbed the country and the world of the human rights and freedom icon and the launch of the caucus would symbolise government’s commitment towards fighting the disease.

“In signing this document, we commit to using all the means at our disposal in partnership with all relevant stakeholders to build commitment in our country, and globally, forever increasing efforts to end the TB epidemic,” she said.

For the past eight years, TB has remained the biggest killer in South Africa with over 70 000 people dying in 2009.

Through numerous interventions, the number was reduced to over 33 000 in 2017.

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, current Miss South Africa Tamaryn Green, TV personality Gerry Eldson, as well as four medical doctors – all survivors of TB – attended the launch event, and are TB ambassadors as well, uniting to join the campaign to fight the disease.

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, National Council of Provinces House chairperson of committees Jomo Nyambi, TB caucus co-patron Thandi Modise, World Health Organisation’s Dr Brian Chirombo and health portfolio committee chairperson Lindelwa Dunjwa, also addressed the event.

Parliament said that the decision to launch the South African TB Caucus was taken at the Speakers’ Forum led by Mbete, who also acted as the caucus co-patron.

The caucus is expected to be rolled out to all provincial legislatures “in due course”, Parliament added.

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