Government correct to appeal High Court ruling

ANC Today 28 March 2002

The government's approach to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against the Pretoria High Court's order on the provision of the drug Nevirapine is important as it impacts on the broader constitutional issues which the Constitutional Court is being asked to consider.

The action is necessary towards achieving legal clarity on the respective powers and functions of the courts and the government. It is an assertion of the constitutional basis of South African society, which many critics would prefer to abandon in the interests of a particular agenda. Government would indeed be irresponsible to give in to pressure to abandon this principle.

The Pretoria High Court ruled in December last year that government must make Nevirapine available to all pregnant women in public health facilities. The court ruled on Monday this week that government must proceed to execute this order, even though the Constitutional Court is due to hear an appeal on this matter on 2-3 May.

Government has made it clear that it has no intention of circumventing the courts or delaying the resolution of the matter "by endless litigation".

"We have turned to the highest court in the land precisely because of our belief in the judicial system and because we think the issues warrant this kind of attention. We believe that the execution order is a constitutional matter, or at least so intimately linked to the central constitutional questions of the original case that it is a proper matter for the Constitutional Court to deal with," Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said.

She said she was appointing a task team to guide and support the further development of the programme on mother-to-child transmission of HIV within norms and standards endorsed by all provinces.

The developments in the Nevirapine case have taken place in the context of a concerted effort not to report the position of the ANC on HIV/AIDS. The content of a of a statement released last week by the ANC National Executive Committee on HIV/AIDS was largely ignored or misrepresented by many media institutions. Instead of reporting accurately the position of the ANC on AIDS, which is publicly available, several newspapers and broadcasters reported views that don't reflect the position of the organisation. Other represented the deliberations of the movement as some sort of battle between 'dissident' and 'mainstream' views on HIV/AIDS.

In the interests both of public understanding and the effectiveness of the struggle against HIV/AIDS, it is essential that the media begins to report accurately on the positions of the ANC and the programmes of government.