By Sizwe samaYende

Sibongile Manana, Mpumalanga's defiant MEC for health, ignored public opinion this week and served an eviction notice on anti-rape volunteers who provide free trauma counselling and medicine to women and children at state hospitals.

Manana's eviction notice against the Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project (Grip) follows almost 18 months of persecution after the province banned volunteers from giving anti-Aids drugs to rape survivors.

Grip attempted to defy the ban but was forced to back down after Manana accused the volunteer housewives of undermining the ANC, making President Thabo Mbeki look like a fool and poisoning black patients by giving them free access to anti-retroviral drugs such as AZT and 3TC.

She also claimed Grip was putting her department in an awkward position because rape survivors elsewhere in the province were demanding anti-Aids drugs.

Government policy currently prohibits the distribution of anti-Aids drugs to patients in state hospitals who may have HIV and Aids.

Manana declined to comment on the issue on Friday but has previously insisted that Grip failed to get written permission to operate at the Rob Ferreira hospital in Nelspruit and the Themba hospital in neighbouring Kabokweni.

She has refused to explain why Grip has been singled out while 48 other volunteer organisations working at the hospitals have not been evicted for failing to get written

authorisation.

Richard Spoor, Grip's attorney, said on Friday Grip did not accept Manana's alleged discomfort and embarrassment as good enough reasons to deny rape survivors drugs.

Spoor said Grip had hoped to convince Manana to withdraw the eviction order amicably, but would now challenge it in court if necessary. - African Eye News Service