Red Cross fracas ‘hits HIV/Aids patients’

Divisions within the SA Red Cross Society have negatively affected services meant for the poor in KwaZulu-Nata. Picture: (AFP)
Divisions within the SA Red Cross Society have negatively affected services meant for the poor in KwaZulu-Nata. Picture: (AFP)

Divisions within the SA Red Cross Society have negatively affected services meant for the poor in KwaZulu-Natal.

The effect of the fracas between two factions, one led by Nqe Dlamini and the other by advocate Mothibedi Panyane, allegedly resulted in volunteers losing their jobs because of a lack of funding from donors.

Panyane formerly deputised for Dlamini, who was the Red Cross president before the trouble started last year.

Dlamini said Panyane resigned in 2015 because he was unhappy with the salary paid to the then chief executive Derick Naidoo.

But Panyane has denied this, saying he was an ordinary board member when he resigned to resume his duties as the chairperson of the Gauteng provincial council at the behest of the Gauteng branch members.

Sources within Dlamini’s faction alleged that Panyane was behind the revolt against Dlamini’s faction, which led to an interim parallel board being formed in June last year.

At that board meeting the majority of board members aligned to Dlamini were allegedly frog-marched out of that meeting by a group of members, who allegedly claimed to be representing various provinces.

This group, later that day, established a parallel interim board, which Dlamini alleged was illegitimately constituted.

The faction, Dlamini said, would be later chaired by Panyane.

Dlamini said they had tried to involve the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to resolve the impasse but their calls had fallen deaf ears.

“The federation has not come to the fore. Our hands are tied. On the ground nothing is happening in KwaZulu-Natal. We have people, including HIV/Aids-positive patients, depending on the Red Cross but now everything has collapsed. Programmes looking after thousands of orphans and vulnerable children have been affected,” Dlamini said.

Panyane confirmed that he was Dlamini’s deputy before he resigned but denied that he had any knowledge of what happened at the board meeting last year.

“With regard to the meeting that was held in June last year, I am not privy to what specifically transpired because I was not present. I was attending a funeral and everybody who attended the meeting can bear testimony to my absence from the meeting,” Panyane said.

For years KwaZulu-Natal had a donor who provided funding for HIV prevention, care and support. In 2017 the donor informed the Red Cross that the funding would end in September this year, which resulted in staff retrenchments

He said the Red Cross had continued providing much-needed help to the vulnerable across all provinces.

“For years KwaZulu-Natal had a donor who provided funding for HIV prevention, care and support. In 2017 the donor informed the Red Cross that the funding would end in September this year, which resulted in staff retrenchments. For nonprofit-making organisations, such as the Red Cross, staff contracts are pegged to the availability of funding. The Red Cross relies on the goodwill of donors to carry out its mandate of alleviating human suffering. The organisation does good work across the country.”

In a document sent to City Press, the Red Cross provided pictures and information about programmes being conducted in Durban, Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, Welkom and Bloemfontein in the Free State, and Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape.

Panyane insisted his board was properly constituted.

“It was elected by the National Council on the 26th of January of 2019. [The National Council is the highest decision-making body within the organisation comprising representatives from all the provinces.] The IFRC was represented by the then head of Southern Africa cluster [Lorraine Mangwiro] to ensure the legitimacy of the process,” he said.

Dr Michael Charles, now head of the Southern Africa cluster, said its role was to guide and support the development of its members’ national societies and to help them improve and expand their humanitarian influence.

“This is our focus in South Africa where the Red Cross is a key pillar in the country’s health and welfare network.

“Red Cross teams in South Africa continue to encourage and promote the improvement of health, the prevention of disease and the mitigation of suffering. To this end the IFRC is working with the board that was announced through the outcomes of the Red Cross general assembly held in June last year and the subsequent board members that were duly elected thereafter,” Charles said.

IFRC, he said, would continue to work with the Red Cross “as it addresses its internal issues in accordance with its statutes and legal framework”.

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