South African AIDS activist and Treatment Action Campaign director Zackie Achmat on Tuesday led a group of about 200 demonstrators at a public meeting in Cape Town to call for the resignation of Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. The protest was the latest in an ongoing civil disobedience campaign launched last week with the filing of manslaughter charges against the health minister, in addition to Trade Minister Alec Erwin. Activists picketed outside the hotel where Tshabalala-Msimang was scheduled to address a meeting regarding the state of the country's public health system. As soon as she rose to give her speech, Achmat and a few others ran to the front, demanded to read a speech, and repeatedly called Tshabalala-Msimang a "murderer."
Government officials later released a statement condemning the protest. "TAC's campaign is neither necessary nor helpful," the statement said. "We can make greater progress as a nation if we all lend a hand in partnership against AIDS. Our energies should be spent fighting AIDS, not one another."
TAC has pledged to stage a civil disobedience campaign until the government begins providing anti-HIV medications to the nation's estimated 4 million HIV-positive citizens. Government officials have balked at providing the antiretroviral drugs, which are too expensive and toxic, they say.