Westville prisoner dies because of Govt delays

Ministers of Health and Prisons must be charged with culpable homicide

August 17, 2006

CAPE TOWN — Zackie Achmat, Fredalene Booysen, Ntombozuko Kwaza and TAC comrades will be occupying the Human Rights Commission offices in Cape Town in an act of civil disobedience.

On 15 August 2006, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) learnt that an inmate with AIDS in Westville Corrections Centre died in King Edward Hospital.

We hold the government in particular the Minister of Correctional Services and Minister of Health responsible for this unnecessary death and suffering of this inmate.

MM – (initials used to protect confidentiality ), the Seventh Applicant in the case between 15 inmates of Westville Correctional Centre and the Government of the Republic of South Africa died on 06 August 2006.

Uncontested evidence

Uncontested evidence filed by the AIDS Law Project (ALP) before the Durban High Court on 10 April 2006 shows that:

  • Since November 2004 the prison officials knew that MM had a CD4 count of 87.
  • MM had a CD4 count of 86 in March 2006.08.16
  • Between November 2004 and March 2006, he had suffered: �Bleeding piles, painful rash on both ears, fungal infections, TB, body rash, general itchiness, oral thrush, lesions, penile sores, mouth sores, septic sores on knees, painful feet. (Court record page 108)
  • In an affidavit filed on government's behalf by Ms Jabulile Elizabeth Sishuba there is further evidence of bureaucratic bungling: McCords Hospital refusing to treat prisoners with HIV; then failure by DCS to meet an appointment and misplaced CD4 counts at King Edward Hospital. All the time MM was getting sicker.
  • On 20 July 2006, the AIDS Law Project again filed an affidavit stating that MM had been unavailable for consultation and was confined to high care at Westville. On 19 July 2006, Ms Sishuba was more forthcoming in her affidavit showing a dramatic decline in the health of MM.
  • �Seventh Applicant: He attended RK Khan Family Clinic on 30 May 2006. He attended again on 31 May 2006. On 13 June 2006 he was taken to King Edward Hospital. He was discharged on 15 June 2006. He was given another appointment for 19 June 2006. He was admitted at the King Edward Hospital for disseminated TB and renal impairment. He is on TB treatment. On 22 June 2006 he was assessed for medical parole. The Respondents are awaiting the decision of the parole board. This Applicant has not been examined by Dr. Zitha as he attended the RK Khan Family clinic and not the King Edward Family Clinic. That is where he attended the ART Programme. He started Anti-retroviral drugs on 12 July 2006.�
  • MM died in King Edward Hospital on 6 August 2006.
  • On 15 August 2006, a week after his death the Government lawyers placed the following statement on record before the Court �the Seventh Applicant is taking ARVs�.

    Government decided to implement ARV treatment in November 2003. A year later in November 2004, MM was desperately sick with AIDS and CD4 count of 87. In October 2005, the AIDS Law Project and TAC intervened. 8 months later and much too late he started ARVs.

    The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) demands a full judicial investigation into the death of the inmate. We also demand that charges of culpable homicide be investigated against the Ministers of Correctional Services and Health.

    We demand that government withdraw their latest criminally delaying tactic to appeal the interim order and to smear Judge Pillay.

    At least another 8 prisoners are desperately sick. How many more deaths will it take before government take their constitutional duties seriously? – Issued by Treatment Action Campaign

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