South African Government Will Not Block KwaZulu-Natal Grant
South African government officials said on Tuesday that they do not plan to block a recent grant by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to KwaZulu-Natal province, Johannesburg Business Day/AllAfrica.com reports. However, HIV/AIDS advocates are concerned about indications that the money may be pooled under a federal agency and disbursed to programs other than the one designated, thereby prompting the Global Fund to withhold the grant (Kahn, Johannesburg Business Day/AllAfrica.com, 7/17). In April, the fund approved a one-year, $11.5 million grant that would allow the province to expand the Harvard AIDS Institute's Enhancing Care Initiative from one hospital to every clinic in the province. The South African government last month tried to block the grant, stating that the grant application did not go through the national government before being submitted to the fund as specified in the application guidelines. KwaZulu-Natal officials said they applied directly to the fund because South Africa had not established a Country Coordinating Mechanism at the time of application. The South African National AIDS Committee has since been designated as the country's CCM (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/12). In a statement released Tuesday, KwaZulu-Natal Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that he and South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang had agreed to pool the money under the National AIDS Council, which would use the funds "in a manner that will benefit all the provinces equitably and within programs contained within the proposals submitted to the Global Fund." However, Mazuwa Banda, a program manager with the fund, said that the grant approved for the province cannot be redirected because approval of the money was project-specific. If the government does not designate the funds for the intended program, the Global Fund may not release them as planned.
Mike Ellis, a spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance opposition party, said that Mkhize's statement did not specifically indicate whether the national government would redirect some of the grant to programs in other parts of the country. However, he said, "[u]ntil such a time as we receive confirmation of the fund's acceptance of the changed circumstances, there remains concern as to the possibility of this donation being lost." Mark Heywood of the advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign added that KwaZulu-Natal officials "bowed to pressure from the national health department and surrendered" the grant (Johannesburg Business Day/AllAfrica.com, 7/17).