Cablegate: A Trip to the Eastern Cape: Positive Steps

R 230800Z DEC 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary: The Eastern Cape has the dubious reputation of
being the most poorly managed province in South Africa.
Nevertheless, Cape Town Consul General and Econoff found a
variety of organizations and individuals in business, civil
society and the government who are developing or implementing
initiatives that are making a difference in the province.
One such initiative involves a public/private partnership
(PPP) that provides outreach programs to businesses and their
employees on HIV/AIDS awareness, counselling, testing and
treatment. Another non-governmental organization (NGO), set
up by a former International Visitor, advocates for women and
girls who are victims of violence. The Director and members
of her organization recently served on a committee advising
the government on the new Sexual Offences Act. Still another
enterprising woman has established a community library as
part of her Institute of Training and Education for Capacity
Building in East London. In addition, three staff members
from the Eastern Cape Director General's office discussed
various initiatives that the new Eastern Cape Provincial
Government plans to undertake in the education and health
sectors to turn around earlier dismal performance. Finally,
an Anglican priest working for the Eastern Cape AIDS Council
and a Deputy Newspaper Editor talked about their respective
efforts to encourage residents and other stakeholders to be
more proactive in their neighborhoods. End Summary.

Siyakhana, a Public/Private Partnership, Takes HIV/AIDS
Awareness to the Workplace

2. Consul General and Econoff made a series of courtesy
calls to a number of individuals and organizations on a
recent visit to the Eastern Cape. These individuals, who
come from the business community, civil society and the
government, talked about efforts and programs that seek to
improve the lives of Eastern Cape residents. Siyakhana
Director Dr. Simeon Odugwu spoke to Econoff on the sidelines
of a breakfast meeting held by the Border-Kei Chamber of
Business in East London. He indicated that DaimlerChrysler,
the Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB)and German
development agency DEG jointly established Siyakhana, a PPP,
to provide participating small and medium-sized companies
with HIV/AIDS awareness training, counselling, testing,
treatment, care, support and impact mitigation. The
companies pay a nominal fee to participate in the program,
and the initiative is available to employees'
partners/spouses and up to three children per family.
Siyakhana has so far offered voluntary counselling and
testing to over 7,000 employees, with 4,656 participating in
the programs. 3,078 of these employees have taken HIV tests
and a further 267 have been referred to treatment programs.
At this time, HIV positive employees receive ARVs through a
private sector treatment network owing to capacity
constraints in the public health sector. However, Dr. Odugwu
hopes that in the longer term, patients will be able to
access similar treatment in public clinics and hospitals.
Through programs like Siyakhana's, employers hope to keep HIV
positive employees healthy and economically active longer,
thus producing a win-win situation for everyone.

Masimanyane, an Advocate for Women and Girls

3. Masimanyane Women's Support Centre is a non-profit
international women's organization located in East London.
Dr. Lesley Foster, its CEO and Director, explained the work
of her organization to the Consul General and Econoff during
Qof her organization to the Consul General and Econoff during
their recent visit. Established fourteen years ago, the
Centre began simply as a support group for women but quickly
became involved in advocacy work. Masimanyane now has nine
offices and 150 volunteers who work in townships and rural
areas providing educational and prevention information about
violence against women and girls. The Centre is also
conducting research on the effectiveness of prevention
programs on violence among pre-teens and teenagers.
Moreover, the organization works with area police to
intervene and provide shelter to victims of violence. Dr.
Foster indicated that her organization receives funding from
the Scandinavian countries as well as The Netherlands and
Germany. She noted, however, that although the South African
government holds Masimanyane in high regard, it is still very
difficult to get any type of government funding.

4. Dr. Foster philosophized that violence against women is
ultimately a violation of women's human rights. The
violence, she maintains, stems mainly from patriarchal and
negative religious attitudes towards women. She noted that
although the government had enacted legislation criminalizing
violence against women, there was still a big gap between the
law and reality for many women and girls. The link between
the policy level and the CBO is weak. Moreover, enforcement
of the law, particularly in rape cases, was still lacking in
many areas, especially rural areas where the most brutal
violence occurred. Dr. Foster proudly shared that she and
several of her colleagues had sat on an advisory committee to
the government during the drafting of the Sexual Offenses
Act. Her organization also came up with the idea for the
nationally observed "Sixteen Days of Activism Against

An Entrepreneur Goes the Extra Mile on Technical Training

5. Delores Athiemulam, who heads East London,s Institute of
Training and Education for Capacity Building (ITEC) met with
the Consul General and Econoff to discuss her organization's
work with disadvantaged communities. Ms. Athiemulam, a
highly entrepreneurial woman and former Fulbrighter, spoke at
length about her NGO, explaining that ITEC began as the first
non-racial in-service training center for early childhood
education in 1982. More recently, ITEC has evolved into a
technical training and job resource center for disadvantaged
communities. The resource center includes a community
library with books, eighty-five computers and a television.
Athiemulam shared that Exclusive Books, a South African
on-line bookstore, had given ITEC R65,000 (USD 6,500) worth
of books and paid for the library,s television. ITEC has
twenty-five trainers who work throughout the province.

6. Ms. Athiemulam explained that her organization now has
fourteen different projects underway in different schools
ranging from the primary to university level. Other projects
include setting up primary education systems, establishing
community libraries, computer training for adults and
training for HIV/AIDS caregivers. She indicated that her
computer training classes have mushroomed and have assisted
graduates in finding employment. Moreover, this training has
now become a source of income generation for ITEC.
Athiemulam shared that her center has its own sources of
funding and receives no financial support from the provincial

Director General's Staff Discuss New Strategies for the

7. Three staff members from the Eastern Cape Director
General,s office met with Consul General and Econoff on a
recent trip to Bhisho. General Manager Laura Best, together
with Senior Manager of International Relations & Protocol
Sindiswa Mququ and General Manager of Intergovernmental
Relations Nomatemba Mbete discussed several new strategies
that are now being or will soon be implemented to alleviate
poverty and promote economic growth in the province. Best
indicated that there are two main strategies underway. The
first one is an attempt to register all non-profit or small
community-based organizations (NPOs/CBOs), which are
providing various community services in the Eastern Cape.
The provincial government aims to have a relatively complete
registry of organizations in both rural and urban areas that
disadvantaged communities can access for assistance. The
second initiative is called the cooperative strategy where
small economic or business-related entities can register as
cooperatives promoting greater economic participation among
small businesses and farmers. Best volunteered that the
government was further along in implementing the first
strategy. The second one is a newer program.

8. The three staff members confided that service delivery,
which has been notoriously bad in the Eastern Cape, was a
Qwhich has been notoriously bad in the Eastern Cape, was a
project management problem. Best volunteered, however, that
the provincial government was beginning to implement an
accelerated delivery of services initiative in health and
education services. She pointed out that the previous
provincial government had under funded education but quickly
added that the recently appointed Premier had the political
will to turn the sector around. One of the main priorities
is to get rid of the remaining mud schools in the province.
Another is to adequately equip all public schools with
furniture, teaching materials, and textbooks as well as
ensuring a safe water supply, nutrition programs and fencing
for security purposes. Best continued, however, that the
current inadequate supply of teachers was worrying. She said
that the province was looking at bringing in teachers from
other countries to fill the gap.

9. In the health area, Best indicated that the provincial
health department intends to ensure the adequate supply of
antiretroviral medication (ARVs) to public clinics and
hospitals around the province. (Comment: On an earlier trip
to the Eastern Cape, various CBOs indicated that in rural
areas, clinics did not have ARVs. HIV positive patients had
to hire transport to take them to a hospital in King Williams
Town or East London to obtain the medication. For children,
ARVs are only available in East London. End Comment.) Ms.
Mququ interjected that she had heard about PEPFAR's work on
HIV/AIDS in the province and noted that it was making a
difference. She added that she hoped our grants would assist
the CBO projects to become sustainable in the long term.

10. Best further advised that housing had become a
stand-alone department in the provincial administration. She
shared that the province hopes to construct 15,000 units
during this fiscal year and repair many others
("rectification"), which were poorly constructed in the past.
Previously, there had not been adequate quality assurance
standards she added.

11. The Director General's staff also asked about the
possibility of the U.S. Peace Corps placing volunteers in the
Eastern Cape to assist in institution building. Ms. Mququ
asserted that they would be very welcome. She noted that New
Zealand had a number of volunteers there already. The Consul
General promised to inquire about this possibility.
(Comment: Econoff had asked the Peace Corps Country Director
earlier about the possibility of putting volunteers in the
Eastern Cape. He indicated that the Peace Corps would have
to open a satellite office closer to the Eastern Cape before
putting volunteers there. End Comment.)

Other Eastern Cape Strategies to Fight HIV/AIDS

12. Reverend Ntshingwa, an Anglican priest and the CEO of
the Eastern Cape AIDS Council, elaborated on his
organization's efforts to broaden AIDS partnerships in the
province at a separate meeting with the Consul General and
Econoff. He believes that the province's HIV/AIDS
multi-sectoral framework plan (reported in reference cable)
will promote on-the-spot intervention through door-to-door
campaigns. At this time, the National Treasury is costing
the plan. Once the Treasury completes this process, the
province will have a donors' conference to determine what can
be funded from outside donors and what the government must
fund. As to provincial HIV/AIDS targets, Ntshingwa shared
that the province hopes to halve the rate of new infections
by 2011. Over the past year, new infections increased by 1.4
percent in the province. It also hopes to have fifty percent
of HIV infected residents on ARV medication and to increase
accessibility of ARVs. Ntshingwa believes access to
treatment is a human right and that people have a right to
adequate care.

A Young Deputy Editor's Activism

13. East London's Daily Dispatch Deputy Editor Bongani
Siqoko concluded Consul General's and Econoff's series of
meetings in the Eastern Cape. He described various
initiatives underway at his newspaper. He noted that the
Daily Dispatch had been the newspaper that exposed the poor
conditions and care at Eastern Cape public hospitals,
specifically Frere Hospital, last year. Siqoko indicated
that "his" journalists are also now investigating an issue
that may be bigger than the hospital scandal, but he did not
elaborate. In addition to pursuing investigative reporting,
Siqoko shared that he is attempting to do more public or
civic journalism to engage the general public on issues like
the environment and the up-coming elections. The Dispatch's
periodic column on "Trash Busters" has spurred East London
residents to report on illegal garbage dumps and other types
of pollution. Siqoko hopes that his newspaper will also
Qof pollution. Siqoko hopes that his newspaper will also
encourage voters to take more proactive positions with
selected candidates up for election. Siqoko has been chosen
to participate in the U.S. International Visitor Program
early next year.

A Surprising Postscript

14. Former Buffalo City Mayor Ntombentle Peter attended U.S.
Consulate General Cape Town's Community Grants certificate
granting ceremony on December 4 in King Williams Town. She
also gave a few words of praise and encouragement to the
grantees. The Mayor confided to the Consul General during
lunch that her municipality had consistently earned high
marks from the National Government until the change in
administrations. Afterwards, she indicated that nothing she
did was right. Newspaper reports indicated that Mayor Peter,
who was an Mbeki appointee, had been voted out of office on
Tuesday, December 9. She was succeeded by Sakhumzi Caga.

15. Comment: There is no question that the Eastern Cape has
a lot of catching up to do, especially with regard to
promoting economic growth and enhancing service delivery.
However, the people encountered during this trip appeared to
have a passion for their work and programs. Even the Eastern
Cape Government officials had the same passion and energy for
their plans. Hopefully, provincial officials will be able to
follow-through on their plans and effectively implement them.
Project implementation in the Eastern Cape and in other
areas of the country has often been woefully lacking. If
however, improved service delivery and higher economic growth
happen, perhaps civil society, the private sector and the
government can together provide a better environment for
Eastern Cape residents. End Comment.


© Scoop Media

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