Solidarity and AfriForum today announced that the government has admitted under oath in its court documents that there is no legal restriction on the private sector to purchase Covid-19 vaccines. This follows after the two organisations threatened with legal action against the government, to declare unconstitutional any legal exclusion of the private sector regarding the purchase of vaccines.
“The state has a history of failure. The SAA has fallen, Eskom turned off our lights, municipalities are bankrupt, and Denel cannot pay their employees’ salaries. The government does not have the ability to manage the vaccine process themselves. This includes the purchasing of vaccines. The private sector must be involved with the full vaccine value chain – from procurement to the administering of the vaccine. To ensure this, Solidarity and AfriForum approached the court to prevent the nationalisation of the vaccine process,” said Dr Dirk Hermann, Chief Operations Officer of Solidarity.
According to Solidarity, the government used political power to create public impression and sow uncertainty regarding the purchase and sale of vaccines with its pronouncements and publications in which it pertinently states that it intends to control the entire vaccine process, from procurement to the administering of it. This follows, after remarks made by the Minister of Health who said, among other things, that the purchase of vaccines would be managed by the central government, and later in KwaZulu-Natal on 18 February, when he mentioned that the national government will be responsible for the direct purchase of vaccines. In parliament he mentioned that central purchasing of vaccines would be the best option for all people in South Africa. He further mentioned that the private sector can buy vaccines from the government. In the government’s vaccine rollout strategy, they also said that the process will be led nationally. In the so-called response strategy, the following is said: “The SA government will be the sole purchaser for the vaccines in the country.”
“The government has now admitted under oath in its court documents that there is no statutory restriction on the private sector regarding the purchase of vaccines. There is now legal certainty that the private sector may purchase and distribute vaccines – a huge setback for looters,” said Hermann.
“The timeline of events relating to this case has made it clear that the government’s refusal to answer AfriForum and Solidarity’s attorney letter has led to large scale confusion and a shocking lack of transparency in an urgent matter. AfriForum and Solidarity had to launch a court application to finally get a response from government – whereas a simple response to our initial letter would have cost the government almost no time at all. There appears to be a deliberate attempt at obfuscation by the government regarding this matter, which leads us to ask, why this lack of transparency?” said Ernst van Zyl, Campaign Officer for Strategy and Content at AfriForum.
“The fact that it is taking legal action to force government to answer important questions about an urgent matter that can save lives, proves how little value the government really attaches to transparency. This case once again proved how vital watchdogs for civil society, such as AfriForum and Solidarity, are in the ongoing battle to protect human rights in South Africa,” said Van Zyl.
“We are delighted that continued pressure from Solidarity and AfriForum has resulted in employers, medical funds and other private institutions now being able to approach manufacturers with confidence for negotiations on the vaccines. This can be crucial in our fight against the virus. Solidarity is now calling on large employers, medical distributors, medical aid funds and other role players to start buying, distributing and administering vaccines on a large scale. We also call on suppliers to not only provide vaccines centrally to the government, but to a variety of buyers so that there are more role players in the market, thus also enabling the consumer to make a choice about which vaccine he or she wants administered. We will not allow the government to appropriate that which does not belong to it,” Hermann concluded.
Solidarity and AfriForum will continue to hold the government liable and accountable and will continuously act as watchdog to ensure that the government makes fair, transparent and legal policy decisions.