Picture: Chris Collingridge/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - Parliament and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) have been chastised by the Constitutional Court after failing to seek public comment before signing off on new medical legislation.

The Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Act was initially signed in December 2015, with the document laying out which medical professionals were required to have a licence to dispense and compound medicines.

However, the South African Veterinary Association (Sava) has insisted that vets should not be included in this list, and that when the public was asked for comment on the bill when it was proposed in 2011 there was no mention of vets in the initial draft.

However, when the National Assembly portfolio committee on health realised this, it amended the draft bill to include veterinarians with only a few days left for public comment, giving Sava and other veterinarian interest groups no time to make submissions.

The apex court ruled in a unanimous judgment on Wednesday that the NCOP and National Assembly had failed to facilitate meaningful public involvement around the sudden insertion of veterinarians into the act.

“The National Assembly portfolio committee made this amendment without obtaining the requisite permission from the National Assembly and without any public involvement on the insertion.

“This complete lack of public participation renders the actions of the National Assembly constitutionally invalid,” the court ruled.

Sava has insisted since the act was ratified that it meant vets could not dispense medication without a licence that was specifically designed for human medicine, and this affected pet owners in rural areas.

If a rural vet did not receive the licence, they would have to redirect pet owners to pharmacies, which often did not stock medication for animals.

The Constitutional Court ordered that “veterinarian” was severed from the act, and that the Speaker of the National Assembly and the chairperson of the NCOP pay Sava’s legal costs.

The association lauded the judgment as a victory for vets countrywide.

“Had we lost the impact would have been devastating to a very large group of people.

“The victory is arguably the biggest event in the veterinary association’s history. It was led by a team of dedicated individuals supported by the board of directors of Sava.

“A special mention must be made to Dr Johan Marais, Sava’s immediate past president.

“It was during his presidency of the association that Sava launched its application,” said Sava in a media statement.

Saturday Star