Speaking notes for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the South African National Aids Council (SANAC)
10 September 2010
I am very happy to see that many of you have been able to take time from your very busy schedule to be here.
Committed to this cause, we gather here together as leaders, partners, colleagues, friends and, most importantly, custodians of our country’s National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS and more recently, TB/HIV collaboration to reflect on our mandate.
As SANAC we have never taken time to apply our mind in a focused manner to our own internal machinery, our structures and systems to ensure that these remain robust, appropriate and responsive to the changing nature of the challenges posed by these epidemics.
Although the country is aware of our heavy schedules, the demanding nature of the times we live in, we will not be forgiven for failing to discharge our responsibility as articulated in the NSP and in many other policies and protocols that govern our country.
This appointment is thus very critical and in fact long overdue. In 15 months’ time we must be ready to launch the NSP for 2012-2016 and in order to do this it is important to take this time to interrogate what we are doing now, assess whether our current approach is strategic and efficient and identify issues that need attention and address these gaps with speed.
I trust that all of you have seen and read the Mid Term Review that was conducted at the end of 2009.
In this regard, you will have noticed that the findings with respect to SANAC as the highest body that advices government on all HIV related policies were neither satisfactory nor flattering.
The report highlighted several gaps such as the absence of a clear link with the provincial Councils, the need to strengthen the capacity of the secretariat, and the questions related to governance and accountability.
Of course a significant number of these issues can be resolved, and that is what I hope we will achieve over the next two days.
In addition to reviewing structures and systems, we need to reflect on how we maintain open, robust and sometimes difficult dialogue on key social issues that affect our ability to respond comprehensively to the social determinants and drivers of the epidemic.
Among priority issues is the need to reflect on how to engage constructively as equal stakeholders in the response to HIV and other related issues.
Secondly, in co-ordinating and monitoring the implementation of the NSP, how do we maximise our collective contribution whilst maintaining our oversight in our own areas of responsibility?
Thirdly, how do we engage with research and evidence as policy makers? How do we ensure that our observations remain objective when we make recommendations on a particular course of action?
Fourthly, within the SANAC family, how do we deal with conflict or disagreement on particular issues; are there thing we should be doing differently and if so, what are these and what should we be doing differently?
All of us are familiar with the particular history of our response to HIV and how we arrived where we are today.
We are now in an era where our focus is on moving forward in unison using our past experiences and lessons proactively to ensure that we improve the things that we do.
The current structures of SANAC bear the stamp of those past experiences in one way or another and it is precisely these areas that sometimes create unspoken barriers that we must address and feel comfortable and confident that we can do that as a collective.
Unity is indeed strength, but unaddressed differences do not bode well for the future that we all want to create for the people of our country.
I am sure we are all committed to ensuring that we discharge our mandate and responsibility in the best way possible and the discussions we are going to have must be based on the that commitment to change what is not working, improve what we believe is useful and find a new way to address emerging issues.
One of the areas that we may want to spend time reflecting on is the balance between doing our work as implementers of programmes in our communities and stepping back from that role to assume our coordinating roles as SANAC sectors.
Given the fact that everyone here gives time to this work voluntarily, how do we strike a good balance and maintain an objective approach to these aspects of our work?
The structures of the commissioners and the key issues that have been identified cover many of the aspects that are critical for our work.
We do realise that we will not be able to resolve everything in the short time we have but this workshop provides a good first step to the right direction.
I look forward to the successful discussion that we are going to have and I am confident that we will be able to find solutions to many of the issues that we need to address.