Mr President, time is up for tabling the vaccine plan

Please find the attached soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) lawyers wrote to the Presidency seven days ago making the case that President Cyril Ramaphosa has a constitutional obligation – as does his entire Executive – to be transparent about the vaccine acquisition and distribution plan. We committed to approaching the courts for relief should this not be done within seven days. Time is now officially up. Should the President and his team not publicly table a detailed, costed and practical vaccine acquisition plan by day end, we will proceed with the court action.

Approaching the courts for relief is the last resort since, despite numerous calls by the DA, civil society and the public for government to showcase their plan for rolling out the life-saving vaccine, this has not been done. We are now relying on the precedent that was set during the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) case of 2002 against the department of health where the courts determined that transparency was key in matters of public health like this one.

Furthermore, we are now in an unenviable position where South Africa is meant to receive its first batch of vaccines before the end of January – in effect this week – but we are still none the wiser about when exactly this batch is due to arrive and how the allocation to the provinces will be handled for its healthcare workers.

In addition to the glaring questions which remain unanswered about this process, there is now clear evidence that the Department of Health was asleep at the wheel. A letter from Treasury states that the DoH only applied to them for deviation from the normal procurement processes for the acquisition of the vaccine on the 7th of January 2021. This the clearest confirmation that the Executive has been slow-footed in the process of acquiring this vaccine as such we are now scrambling; being charged exorbitant fees and still nowhere near getting the volume of vaccines that we so desperately need.

South Africa has no clarity on the exact timelines of the vaccination process including the acquisition, logistics and distribution. Provincial departments of health are hamstrung from bedding down concrete plans for the storage and distribution of the vaccine because they too, have no clue when and how many doses of the vaccines they will receive. This is breathtakingly poor form from government; one which will continue to cost us lives and livelihoods. We must do everything in our power to ensure that we reach frontline workers and those who are vulnerable to this pandemic with a vaccine. We take our role as the official opposition seriously in this crisis and that is why we cannot allow this to go unchallenged.