In our last report, the Kanana Justice and Peace group wrote on the problem of Tuberculosis (TB) in Kanana. We said that the Department of Health launched a big screening campaign. This meeting was attended by Cyril Ramaphosa, the Deputy President, who confirmed that Kanana was a high TB area. In our view our high TB rate is directly linked to the gold mines next to where we live.The government is not prepared to say this in public.
Our group is continuing to monitor this TB in Kanana. These are our recent interviews.
We know that the screening by the health department is continuing. According to a sixty five year old and professional nurse at the Mamosa Home Based Care, Sister Anna Seithati, “Screening of TB patients is also made to people who cough for more than two weeks and their immediate family members are screened”. However the Health department does not keep us informed as a community, they have not reported what they have found in their screening campaign.
An activist and community leader of Kanana Mr. Moeketsi Tjeku said in a meeting organised by Justice and Peace on the 24th of September, “The mines are causing TB and need to take responsibility by assisting government in curing the TB patients and addressing the problem of drug shortages for TB patients. Our youth got arrested by the police when they demanded to be employed by the mines, we are not getting what we want, instead we are told to visit the clinics for TB screening” Moeketsi Tjeku added.
The Justice and Peace is also frustrated. We do not get the coorporation of the the trade unions in the mines. Joe Mashilo a Justice and Peace group coordinator said “ The Tau Lekoa mine union representative has taken us from pilar to post when asked to respond to our questionnaires which was intended for the workers and the union representatives”.
In the meantime we continue to get stories of pain and hardshop by TB sufferers. According a 58 year old former employee of the Anglo gold mine, Mr. M Mosia, who worked for 28 years at the mine, “I am at home and sick because I got ill while working and my employers told me that I am unfit to work. At the public clinic I explained that I have a breathing problem and they sent me to Tshepong hospital where I was told I have TB. On my exit at the mine, I was told to come back after two years because the mine hospital couldn’t find TB when examined. What took me by surprise is when the public hospital revealed that I have TB. I am waiting to feel much better and go back to the mine as they said”
A 28 year old nursing staff member soon to become a professional nurse working in TB rooms in Kanana, said “ TB statistics are high in Kanana amongst children, youth and adults. Ex mining workers are not only from Klerksdorp gold mines, others came home from the Free State, Carltonville and Rustenburg mines, due to illness.”
The care givers at the Mamosa Home Basef Care, who are part of the management committee in their organisation, had this to say when asked about their day to day challenges of treating the TB patients, “Some patients don’t have food, if it’s available, it is not nutritious to enable them to recover to the better. Because patients are subjected to long queues at the clinic they end up defaulting treatment that is why our care givers trace them and get them back to treatment”.
We were unable to get comment from officials at the MDR TB section in Tshepong hospital. However we met a TB patient, Nathaniel Mashiya had been a the MDR ward for five months, He said MDR TB is a bad and painful reality. He confirmed that many people from Kanana came in and out of the ward.
The community monitors in Klerksdorp want the government to address the shortage of essential drugs in clinics. We demand to know from government what has happened since the screening of TB patient in March. We demand that the mines take responsibility for the problem they are creating in their work place.They should also take repsonsilbility for what is happening in the community. Poor economic and social conditions are the main reason behind the spread of TB. The Mining Corporations have the resources.They must solve theproblems.
Mahadio Mohapi, Lebohang Maitsile, Solly Moleme and Jo Mashilo