AfriForum, Solidarity want Dlamini Zuma to explain why private sector excluded from purchasing vaccines
Pretoria - While the Western Cape is pushing ahead with plans to acquire its own supplies of a Covid-19 vaccine, lobby groups AfriForum and Solidarity have pushed the government for answers about its national roll-out programme for the country.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was given until January 20 to provide answers to these two groups about the government’s roll-out plan for Covid-19 vaccines.
This comes after the two organisations took legal action against Minister Dlamini Zuma as well as the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
According to Solidarity, there is no clarity whether the private sector, which by law has the right to purchase vaccines, would have any access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Solidarity said that the state would consequently be able to exercise total control over vaccines, thus restricting private sector access to them, which would include pharmacies, medical funds and private hospitals, thus restricting access by the public at large.
“The government has appropriated the right to be the sole procurer of vaccines in South Africa,” said Connie Mulder, head of the Solidarity Research Institute.
“This is the very same government that has proven its incompetence time and again during the pandemic. It is unlikely that the government would be able to come up with the expertise or capacity required to roll out a vaccine programme of this magnitude.”
He added that by restricting procurement, the government is delaying the process. “Especially health workers and people in other sectors who have excessive exposure to the virus will now have to wait for the government instead of having the option to get themselves vaccinated or to have it done through their own medical fund,” Mulder said.
AfriForum argues that the government monopolising the vaccine drastically infringes on the basic rights of all South African citizens. The private sector’s participation in the purchasing and distribution of the vaccines is essential for the protection of people’s constitutional right of access to health care.
“With the government’s monopoly on the purchasing and distribution of vaccines, all South Africans are at the mercy of the government,” said Ernst van Zyl, campaign official for strategy and content at AfriForum.
He added that apart from the possibility of abuse of power by the government, its track record of corruption and maladministration during the pandemic did not inspire confidence in anyone.
“It makes me shudder to think we could end up in a scenario where the lives of millions of South Africans depend on the government’s logistical capability. We are not opposed to the government buying vaccines, but we are in the midst of a pandemic.
“The more vaccines enter the country, the better. However, we do not understand why all other stakeholders are prohibited from purchasing vaccines as well. It simply does not make sense for the government to deliberately delay the process by insisting on being the sole purchaser,” Mulder concluded.
Chanté Kelder of AfriForum said they have sent the letter this week to place the minister on terms about the government's roll-out programme for the vaccine. As soon as she provides answers, the two lobby groups will compile their court papers and obtain a court date.
The organisations do not want the government to have a monopoly on deciding who will receive the vaccine and who not. Their stance is that allowing the private sector to purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccine would allow for better efficiency in distributing the vaccine to those who want it and to prevent abuse of power by the government.