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ANC cannot be trusted with blank cheque for African Union Medicines Agency

(Debate in Parliament: Consideration of request for approval by Parliament of treaty for the establishment of the African Medicines Agency (AMA))

The ANC government cannot be trusted with a blank cheque of the country’s taxpayers’ money for the establishment of an African Union Medicines Agency.

The objective of the treaty is to ensure that all people in Africa have access to good, safe and affordable medical products that comply with internationally recognised standards for priority diseases.

It is important to note that this treaty differs from the International Health Treaty on pandemic prevention of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Out of the 55 African Union member countries, 30 have already ratified this treaty since March this year.

What concerns the FF Plus is the amount that South Africa will have to contribute to the intended agency. This amount is not yet known.

What is known, however, is that South Africa will have no control over the amount seeing as it will be determined by the relevant agency’s member countries. The FF Plus is concerned that this amount may turn out to be exorbitantly high.

Section 231 of the Constitution clearly stipulates that any international treaty or treaties ratified by government are only binding once the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) have adopted it.

South Africa’s economy is under immense pressure and the country does not have the funds to commit to a treaty requiring it to contribute an unknown amount of money. The possibility of joining the treaty cannot be considered until the amount is known.

As it stands, the Department of Health is already unable to fill all the vacant positions for doctors and nurses, and there is not enough money for medicine and medical equipment for state and provincial hospitals.

The backlog of medical procedures cannot be eradicated, and operations are delayed because the air conditioners in theatres are out of order.

A whopping R26 billion has already been thrown into the bottomless pit of the National Health Insurance (NHI); and now government wants to sign a treaty with unknown costs.

The Department is clearly not even able to fulfil its obligations towards its own people and now it wants to help care for the rest of Africa.

The FF Plus simply cannot support a decision or treaty which entails giving the incompetent and unreliable ANC government a blank cheque.

Government and the Minister of Health first need to clarify the matter with the African Medicines Agency (AMA) before South Africa can sign this treaty.

It would be extremely irresponsible of the South African government to sign any treaty before obtaining all the relevant information and clarifying any uncertainties.

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