News | 24 Jun 2021
“When COVID-19 struck we were not prepared,” says Pinampi Maano, Civil Society Forum Chairperson and Co-Chair to the Premier at the North West Provincial AIDS Council. “No-one was prepared and everyone jumped up and in the process we almost forgot about HIV and TB. Let’s ensure we integrate the screening and testing of COVID-19, HIV and TB. These are the triple threats to our country’s health care system.”
“To all the chronics, the impact has been very severe. People have struggled to get their medication, because of lockdown and a lack of clarity around accessing health facilities. Also the issue of sexual and reproductive health, particularly for young people, has been a big challenge during this period.” Maano also worries that stigma, as it does with HIV and TB, will be a major driver of COVID-19.
“COVID has changed the face of the way we are going to do things forever. We should know that when it comes to these issues, we must be ready.”
Pinampi Maano knows something about facing stigma. “I used to be in conflict with the law – if you are being released from prison you have double stigma to deal with (in a situation where one is also living with HIV). My wish is for our province to ensure we place the AIDS Council Strategically at the forefront to deal with the issues of stigma and reintegration.”
“I am a young man of 38 and the father of two beautiful daughters and I am grateful to being where I am right now. I know so many people struggling and even being afraid to come clean about their criminal records,” explains Maano. “I was arrested for armed robbery and sentenced to eight years.” At the time of his sentencing Maano was a school drop-out with bleak prospects.
“The universe intervened so I could get my life in order,” he says. “In prison, I discovered my abilities, was able to travel within the prison and became involved in various youth development initiatives and TB and HIV programmes. I became an offender representative within the prison. I also came across the Jehova’s Witnesses, which helped me to discover who I am and gave me the opportunity to learn and shaped my thinking.”
After his release from prison in 2007, Maano became involved in the NGO sector. He volunteered for Lifeline and SAMAG-NW, counselling people living with HIV and TB, and worked in programmes to combat gender based violence. Today he runs an NGO called Kgorogo Social Investments and is a member of the Global Fund Technical Working Group on the Development of a Sustainable Framework, representing SANAC Civil Society Forum in his capacity as a chairperson of the Transformation Agenda.
“This is a calling,” he says. “I have been called by the universe.”
Pinampi Maano’s main worry during the current COVID-19 crisis is the potential for corruption. “We need to learn what kind of systems we are putting in place for unforeseen circumstances to prevent people taking advantage of crisis situations. We need to take away this lesson: our governance systems must be strengthened.”
Maano thinks governance and leadership capacity, as well as accountability, are critical factors for the sustainability of community organisations. “The main issue for NGOs is the sustainability of services. The majority of our organisations need capacity building so that they are able to stand up on their own. We need organisations like NACOSA that will bring proper capacity building to organisations.”
The North West Provincial AIDS Council was disbanded in 2014 because, believes Maano, “there was no proper governance.” As part of the new Council, Maano is pushing a transformation agenda. “Sometimes people misunderstand transformation and think we must take from this person and give it to another. But to me, the transformation agenda means developing a strong service-delivery framework and identifying where the gaps are in the framework.”
“The AIDS Councils have been established to play a strategic leadership role to ensure the country’s response to HIV is well coordinated.” Maano feels this strategy could be applied to good effect with COVID19. “On the 1st May 2020, we launched a Community Constituency COVID-19 Strategy Front in Rustenburg which was developed by the national civil society forum.” As part of this work, Maano says they have established a task team of five sectors looking at COVID. “We exist outside government as civil society, the task team’s role is to ensure we are able to integrate the efforts of flattening the curve.”
“This is not the end of the road,” cautions Pinampi Maano. “We must learn to be resilient. We must learn to remain optimistic. On the day I was sentenced, life was showing me flames but I remained committed. Years later, I am now entrusted with co-chairing the Provincial AIDS Council in the North West, which I need to admit is one of the biggest achievements of my life yet very challenging and equally demanding.”
“COVID is here to stay, we must learn how to live with it. Like we did with HIV, we must learn to coexist with these pandemics.”
“We all have a mission to fulfil in the universe, time itself will always provide the opportunity to demonstrate that. As Tracy Chapman says, I dedicate my own private star to all the champions who fought and conquered their demons.”