20 November 2002


Health Care

TOWARDS SECOND DECADE OF FREEDOM

In 1999 the ANC Manifesto made this commitment: Over the next five years the ANC will develop a comprehensive, affordable and accessible National Public Health System, financed in part by a Social Health Insurance programme.

We will improve health care by:

  • Ensuring availability of affordable medicines in line with our national drugs policy
  • Improving the management of hospitals and clinics - with community participation
  • Act decisively to attack preventable illness through, amongst others, our immunisation programme, and measures to combat TB.
  • Developing campaigns against drugs, tobacco and alcohol abuse.

FOREWORD

Nkosinathi Nhleko, Chief Whip of the Majority Party As we approach the end of our parliamentary programme for the year 2002, Sephadi would like to salute all our comrades for their sterling efforts in moulding, through this parliament, a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

This year, our country rose to become a central player in efforts aimed achieving peace in the continent. The African Union and Nepad, today enjoy the united support of the international community, and the fact that we have, as a country, contributed positively to these initiatives should be a source of great pride for our young democracy.

We achieved these successes against a backdrop of an unstable international situation. Characterizing this set of conditions, the President, comrade Thabo Mbeki says, "The authority of the United Nations is being questioned and undermined, together with the principle and practice of multi-lateralism, even as everything else emphasizes the critical importance of establishing a democratic system of global governance."

Structures of our movement are currently immersed in debate around the issue of whether the present electoral system is still relevant for our country.

On the other hand, the government-appointed Electoral Task Team, chaired by Professor Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert, is working tirelessly interrogating various principles and options, preparing to table recommendations on a future electoral system.

It is, however, worth noting that on this particular issue, the September 27-30th, 2002, National Policy Conference of the African National Congress, proposes that the current electoral system be retained as it contributes to nation building and the maintenance of stability by promoting inclusivity and national reconciliation.

The National Policy Conference also reaffirmed the correctness of our policies and emphasized the need to accelerate implementation thereof.

The spirit of vibrancy that characterized our debates as we engaged in democratic processes in preparation for the National Policy Conference, should be intensified, in order to ensure that the 51st National Congress in December in Stellenbosch, does become indeed, a Congress of New Cadres United in Action for Change.


BROADCASTING AMENDMENT BILL

MonitorsIf there is anything that this Bill has achieved, even before its implementation, was to spark an unprecedented national debate on media related issues. It successfully generated a great deal of national interest and an impassioned public dialogue on the challenges facing the SABC. It was encouraging to observe South Africans expressing their views and stating their opinions without any fear of being prosecuted or arrested. This is what is meant by freedom of speech and the kind of public discourse generated by the Bill must continue.

The DP argued for the withdrawal of the Bill because they say it undermines freedom of expression, what a lame excuse! This attitude is similar to the one displayed by the Nationalist Party in the 1960`s, who delayed the introduction of television until 1976 because it threatened volk kultuur stating that South Africa must be protected from "that evil black box." Today, the DP is displaying a similar approach; it is not surprising because they absorbed within their ranks the conservative right wing elements from the old Nationalist Party.

Soon after the Bill was tabled, the propaganda machine of the DP went into action shouting that media freedoms are being undermined. Even Mr Holomisa of the UDM joined the lynching party and the self-righteous media commandos who have at last found proof of the abuse of power by the ANC government. They were ululating and stating that government wants to turn the SABC into a sole mouthpiece and propaganda tool of the ANC. The ANC had no such intentions and the hype and hysteria was unnecessary.

Although there were about 3 500-television stations across the globe in 1963, the apartheid government was determined that there will be no introduction of television in South Africa. African countries like Ghana, Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and Zimbabwe introduced television long before South Africa.

The apartheid regime used every trick in the book, used every research they could lay their hands on to justify their foolish actions. Television was regarded as " the greatest destroyer of the family", " poison to the youth", "children being retarded by television", " spiritual opium and spiritual dagga"

But, before you are tempted to agree with these family-values approach, which appears to be logical, here is the main reason. Speaking in Parliament on 22 May 1963 (Hansard), Dr Hertzog said the following about television:

"It will undermine the position of the White man in South Africa and make the Black man an even greater enemy of the white man" Rob Nixon in his Homelands, Harlems and Hollywood further quotes him saying the most racist and ridiculous statements in defense of why television must not be introduced in South Africa; it is simply unbelievable it would make a box office movie.

"It is afternoon and the Bantu house boy is in the living room cleaning the carpet. Someone has left the television set on. The houseboy looks up at the screen, sees a chorus line of white girls in scanty costumes. Suddenly, seized by lust, he runs upstairs and rapes the madam." (Nixon 1994:52)

Future generations must reject with contempt attempts by the DP inspired by the Hertzogs of this world to deny the majority access to television by maintaining the current marginalisation of African culture and languages. Under the guise of affordability, the DP like Dr Hertzog tells us "that the television system is a expensive system and it must be paid for." South Africans demand that the SABC must broadcast television in their own languages. It is a shame that today we are still talking about the lack of coverage of African languages including Afrikaans on television.

For the record, the ANC stated in its 1999 election manifesto and in many policy documents before 1994 that the SABC must be guaranteed its independence. Even the recent ANC policy conference restated this policy statement.

What lies behind the sensation and dramatic reaction to the Bill is the itch to maintain the status quo - namely television must continue to broadcast a high level of foreign programming and in a language that is not accessible to the majority of South Africans.

We have effected changes that spell out clearly the role of the SABC Board in developing policies and the necessary public participation in the formulation of these policies. The SABC is also for the first time, through legislation, compelled to consider regular inputs of public opinion on its broadcasting services. The accountability of the SABC has been clarified.

There is no room to hide, all SABC policies must be finalised by the Board after public comment. We deliberately avoided stipulating a mechanism of public engagement but we are hopeful that the SABC board will use its roving provincial board meetings to engage local civil society organizations even political parties in improving the services and programmes of the public broadcaster.

Another matter that received considerable attention was the relationship of the media, the public broadcaster and the advancement of national interest or public interest.

Section 16 of the Constitution provides for the freedom of expression, and states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes - ... freedom of the press and other media". Conveniently omitted, however, is that this section is further qualified to include "the freedom to receive or impart information or ideas...freedom of artistic creativity and academic freedom and freedom of scientific research"

Given this full text of section 16, we should therefore ask; how can South Africans exercise this fundamental human right, if the information they receive is not even in a language they understand? How can they exercise this right if there appears such blatant prejudice against their languages? When they are not afforded an opportunity to develop and broadcast local content and thus realise their artistic creativity?

Secondly, the Founding Provision of our Constitution directs the state to take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of indigenous languages. Government is compelled to intervene and issue a directive to the public broadcaster to address the language deficit of our broadcasting. However, the current situation can easily result in litigation against the state. The responsibility lies with government, as it must give effect to the guarantees of the Constitution.

The SABC public radio stations have been more successful in promoting all the languages of our country, but it is obvious to viewers that television is not quite as accessible. In the short term, multilingual programming is the best way to address the language deficit on television. The SABC has introduced multi-lingual programming, like Soul City, Isidingo and Yizo Yizo. But, this is not sufficient, as these efforts do not address the full extent of the language problem.

While it is unrealistic to imagine that all eleven official languages will have their own distinct television channel, the introduction of digital terrestrial technology will assist in closing the gap between the usage of English and the other ten official languages. We are today, through legislation, directing the public broadcaster to deliver television programming in all official languages. There is nothing unconstitutional about what we are doing.

We have, for the first time, through legislation compelled the SABC to encourage the development of a South African expression. Not only must the SABC enjoy and exercise freedom of expression, creative and journalistic independence but now there is a clearly spelt out national obligation to the public of South Africa. We believe that the SABC has a critical role to play in building and shaping the moral fibre of our society and the building of a united and patriotic nation.

The Bill states that the SABC must provide for a wide range of programming that:

We decided to include both national and public interest without offering any outright definition. We are convinced that there is nothing wrong in stating that the public broadcaster must deliver programming to advance national and public interest. In fact, this Bill compared to other laws of the Commonwealth is very moderate. In the British, Australian and Canadian laws it is written that the respective public broadcasters must advance national interest. In our country, like all other democracies, the far-reaching provisions of our Constitution are the brick and mortar that constitute national interest. Whereas public interest tends to be populist and often reflect fashionable views in society, national interest is all encompassing and inclusive. National interest should not be confused with party political interest.

The SABC must also develop a Code of Practice for its services and employees to, amongst other objectives, maintain a high standard of accuracy, fairness and impartiality in news and programmes that deal with matters of public interest. The IBA triple enquiry report adopted by the National Assembly in 1996 defined public interest in the broadest possible manner.

Recently, the coverage of news from an African perspective through SABC Africa now available on free to air television channels makes us proud Africans. The SABC must forge alliance with other public broadcasters on the continent to advance the African Union, Nepad and promote the vision of the African renewal.

Although we must encourage the transformation of the advertising and marketing industry to recognize that they have a responsibility to support media diversity and development in our country, the dependence of the SABC on advertising is unhealthy. The advertising industry unreservedly supports programmes that are aimed at the so-called white English speaking audiences.

We will raise sharply the influence of the industry on the programming choice of the SABC. In the same way that the SABC must be protected from political interference equally the public broadcaster must be protected from editorial and programming interference by the marketing and advertising industry.

The ANC believes that in the coming years, the country must move towards a public funded model of the public broadcaster.

Although the SABC must continue to rely on mixed funding, which include sponsorship, grants, the huge dependence on advertising must be reduced.

NB: The SABC is then required to be responsive to the audience needs, including the needs of the Deaf and the Blind, and account on how to meet those needs.


INSOLVENCY SECOND AMENDMENT BILL

EDITED SPEECH OF THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT CHERLY GILLWALD, MP

Factory workersFirstly, I must observe that employees often become aware of the impending insolvency of their employers at a point in the process where little can be done to ameliorate the consequences of the insolvency. Very often they are confronted with the closure of work premises and even more often the first inkling of impending doom are communicated to employees via the appointed liquidator or trustee. This is an undesirable situation that is severely detrimental to the interests of the employees. It is clearly necessary that employees and their registered trade unions should be informed of a pending insolvency at an earlier stage. This will not only enable them to assist in finding solutions to the financial difficulties of their employer, it would also provide more knowledge about the possible impact that the financial position of the employer.

New provisions of the Bill require that a petitioner for the voluntary surrender of an estate must furnish a copy of the notice of voluntary surrender to registered trade unions and employees. The notice must be affixed to a notice board to which the employees have access inside the premises. If there is no access to the premises by employees, the notice must be affixed to the front gate or door of the premises. In order to expedite the administration of estates and safeguard the interests of the State, a copy of the notice must be furnished to the South African Revenue Service.

The new Bill provides that a creditor who applies for the sequestration of a debtor`s estate must notify the employees of that debtor, their registered trade unions and the South African Revenue Service of the relevant application. For the sake of uniformity, a copy of the relevant petition must be furnished to the debtor unless the court dispenses with notice. The court will exercise its discretionary power in this regard if it is satisfied that it will be in the interests of the debtor or of the creditors to dispense with the relevant requirement. The amendment provides for additional requirements with regard to the provisional sequestration of the estate of a debtor`s estate. This includes that a copy of a provisional sequestration order must be served on registered trade unions, employees and the South African Revenue Service. Service on employees must again take place by affixing a copy of the order to a notice board on the employer`s premises, or to the front gate or door of the premises.

It does not require much imagination to realise that sounding a false alarm in respect of a debtors financial position may have dire consequences for that debtor`s business. A notice of insolvency to employees, when insolvency of the debtor is not in fact imminent, may very well trigger such undesirable consequences. Section 15 on the Insolvency Act makes provision for compensation for damages to a debtor where a petition for sequestration was malicious or vexatious. The Bill also makes provisions for the court to award compensation to a debtor if the court is satisfied that a petition for sequestration amounts to an abuse of the court`s procedure.

Section 339 of the Companies Act, 61 of 1973, makes certain provisions of the Insolvency Act applicable to companies that are unable to pay their debts. However, the provisions in question are those dealing with the process of liquidation that commences once an order of winding-up has been granted and do not include the provisions leading up to granting or refusal of such an order. Section 4 and 9 of the Insolvency Act deal with procedures before the sequestration order is granted and do not apply t companies. Clauses 5 to 7 of the Bill therefore emend the Companies Act in order to effect the same changes t that Act as those contemplated in respect of the Insolvency Act, and don not require further discussion. Finally, it should be noted that, in terms of Section 66 of the Close Corporations Act 69 of 1984, the amended provisions will also apply to the liquidation of a close corporation.


MEDICAL SCHEMES AMENDMENT BILL

This bill seeks increase the protection of the consumer and the vulnerable. It wants to ensure that both medical schemes and health brokers act in the interest of beneficiaries.The regulation of market conduct and broadening the definition of broker service in order to provide for conditions under such brokers can be licensed is a necessity. The conviction of the ANC is that health per se is not a commodity but an essential element of the well-being and service to the people.

Key to this legislation is to ensure that broker fees are also regulated and avoid a situation whereby people were charged exorbitant and unreasonable costs. It signifies ANC determination to systematically break the barriers to access to affordable care.

The definition of brokers in section 1 of the Act is amended to include the ongoing provision of advice and services beyond introduction or admission of members to a medical scheme. The definition exclude parties who may otherwise fall within the definition, but who are doing broker business.

A progressive smaller percentage of member`s contributions are being spent on purchasing medical care, while an increasing proportion of contributions are being spent on non-medical items. This bill endorses the need for health brokers to be subject to a common code of conduct applicable to other financial advisers.

This bill therefore, prevents Health brokers from unfairly interfering with the process of Medical Aid schemes to the disadvantage of consumers. It also provides for capping their fees. All these are new measures that could, among other things, make it affordable for more people to join the medical aid schemes and access to health care service.


MEDICINES AND RELATED SUBSTANCES BILL

This bill seeks to open the space for access to medicine by all of our people. Underpinning this agenda of the ANC has been the need to address the matter of meeting the basic needs of our people including improved health care, access to health and affordable medicine. This bill seeks to achieve access to cheaper medicine. Our departure is the premise that health is a basic human right.

Pills The unregulated pharmaceutical industry decided to oppose this legislation in particular regards to parallel importation of medicine. The key principles of this legislation are: Establishment of a pricing committee that will set up a transparent pricing mechanism. What this legislation calls upon is the for the drug companies but rather allow them to set up a single exit price for medicine and drugs. The pricing committee may recommend a dispensing fee that pharmacies can charge instead of a mark up.

The second principle is related to the above point, removal of perverse incentives such as sampling, bonuses by the industry and other incentives that give rise to dispensing people favouring one drug over another. Also ensuring that most cost-effective drug is used in all circumstances rather than being influence by these perverse incentives.

Two factors which contribute to high inflation, are amongst others:

  1. Over pricing and unnecessary use of medicines,
  2. Non-utilisation of the cost-effective medication available.

In order to bring costs down to international norms, without compromising the quality of care, the two inflation drivers-volume and costs need to be reduced. In pricing, the question of vested interests and profit motives must be addressed as well. Drug prices may be considered as crucial determining excess to services. It also impacts directly on policy choices, such as whether or not to offer HIV/AIDS related drugs in the public sector.

Costs of drugs are a prime consideration in whether or not they are included in essential drug list. Generic substitution is a strategy to reduce the high costs of medicines. Whereby branded medicine is substituted with a medicine that is a cheaper copy of the brand or the original medicine whose patent has expired.

The use of generics and the provisions in this legislation are most significant for developing countries and an opportunity for the creation of domestic pharmaceutical industry to reduce dependency on advance countries.


OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES IN MINES AND WORKS AMENDMENT BILL

This bill enables us to prevent the private sector from the immoral and unethical conduct of benefiting from poverty. The passing of this legislation is political victory in that by law employers will be forced to assist employees that suffer from diseases because of work conditions.

This bill extend the six months period for the examination of the employee as to determine whether is suffering from compensated disease. The reason being that such diseases takes time to develop and consequently take a long time before changing a person`s degree of disability.

Miners protest marchThe bill further increases protection for both workers still in employ and those who that have left. The owner of a controlled mine or a controlled works shall for a period of not more than two years from the date of commencement of a compensatable disease pay the reasonable cost incurred by or on behalf of a person in his or her service, or who was in his or her service at the commencement of a compensatable disease, in respect of medical aid necessitated by such disease. This is to ensure that even if a miner leaves the mine or works where he contracted a compensatable disease, such mine or works continues to pay the reasonable costs for such period.

This bill also protect workers from representatives e.g. lawyers from taking bulk of financial costs awarded as their clients. It therefore prohibits any person who assists in claiming any benefit from charging a fee or claiming remuneration in excess of 0.5% of the benefit awarded or any amount determined by the Director - General by notice in a Gazzette.

The clear illustration of this situation is the famous case of asbestos. The bad, dangerous and inhumane working conditions that the mineworkers were exposed to were not the only causes for death. The workers and communities are dying a s result of dust that they were and are still inhaling of the dust mines dumps. The legacy of asbestos mining has a related diseases and for those who has lost loved ones as a result of these illness.

The claimants Lawyer Richard Meeran of Leigh Day and Co at the time said and I quote " The House of Lords" decision is a victory for justice and has signaled a new era both in terms of the legal accountability if multinationals and the protection of human rights by English courts.


POVERTY

MABUTHO KLAASEN

Writing in 1971, A. Lerumo (Michael Harmel), in Fifty Fighting Years, says;

"Beginning more than three hundred yeas ago, with the establishment by the Dutch East India Company, at the Cape of Good Hope, of a refreshment station for its ships trafficking to Asia, the people of this area have experienced wave after wave of incursions, amounting to a continuous war of aggression, conquest, dispossession and exploitation. Beginning with penetration and enslavement of some Southern areas by Dutch settlers in the pursuit of land and labour, they have experienced domination by the British bourgeoisie in its earlier trading phase and its modern phase of monopoly capitalism. They are at present suffering the terrorist dictatorship of a local white imperialism and national oppression on a scale virtually unparalleled in the modern world."

The above long quotation captures the story of how poverty was brought into the African continent.

It is now a fact of history that the people of South Africa then embarked on a long arduous road seeking to extricate themselves from the inhuman tentacles of their oppressors and exploiters.

From these struggles one of the greatest democracies has just been born. A vibrant country that is deeply immersed in processes aimed at reconciling the divisions of the past and creating a solid base for development and prosperity.

At the instance of the advent of democracy in 1994, our country faced backlogs on all fronts. Inheriting a state that was never geared to serve the majority of the citizens, the country has had to move at a blistering pace, establishing a constitutional and legal framework that would make it possible to transform and serve all the people of South Africa.

It is necessary to tell all these stories so as to remind ourselves the fact that poverty is not the product of the new democracy, but that we fought for freedom in order to get rid of poverty and political oppression. And, as expressed in the Reconstruction and Development Programme, that all the liberation forces within the liberation movement have always been aware of these huge backlogs facing the country with regard to the dire conditions under which the majority of our people live. Therefore it is not correct that some forces within our country are now seeking to create an impression that poverty is the product of the new government`s policies. The history of this country bears testimony to this.

However, the challenge to defeat poverty is staring us. The task facing South Africa as a nation, that is pushing back the frontiers of poverty, is a very difficult and complicated one. It demands of us to cool down our heads and evaluate properly the landscape in order to come up with appropriate, relevant and practicable remedies. The question that follows then is; What Are We Doing?

Emerging from its mid-year lekgotla, Cabinet declared in August 2002 that the country is on course and ready to push back the fronties of poverty.

Delivering the 2002 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement and the 2002/03 Adjustments Appropriation Bill, on the 29th October 2002, the Minister of Finance comrade Trevor Manuel, proclaimed, "Our fiscal position is healthy and the economy is growing steadily,...and Government is now seeking to provide a minimum package of free basic services for all."

The government has also asserted that the key reasons that should gives us confidence are that firstly, integrated governance is now being realised, secondly, structures and systems to attain this necessary integration are now firmly in place, and thirdly and perhaps most importantly, the national statistical system is being improved.

It is important to note that without operational tools as the ones identified above, all our good prayers and aspirations shall be in vain. These are some of the spears and the shields that the battle against poverty demands us to be armed with. And the Apartheid state did not develop them. We are forced by circumstance to develop and sharpen them.

Integrated planning and implementation yields efficiency of service provision. It addresses in a coherent manner the strategic objectives of reconstruction and development. It allows for correct estimation of when will the planned programmes be expected to start making an impact on target groups.

Correct statistical information is critical so as not to allow ourselves to be deceived by high Gross Domestic Products that hide the existence in our country of the `two nations,` the one very rich and the other suffering the indignity of abject poverty.

We need to keep focus, we must resist the quick-fix solutions of those who want to reduce the issue of poverty into food parcels and milk. The question is that of addressing economic deprivation in all its forms, be it hunger, housing, clean water, education, etc.

However, as Comrade President Thabo Mbeki said on the 25th of June 1999, "Steadily, the dark clouds of despair are lifting, giving way to our season of hope."

The Struggle Continues.


SOUTH AFRICA AND GOM FOODS

Since the mid 1970`s progress in biology has enabled scientists to identify, copy or delete genes from an organism to insert them into another. This targeted transfer of genetic information is known as genetic modification.

FoodThe continent of Africa in particular, is getting poorer and hungry. While many of its problems are socio-economic and political in nature and hence require appropriate solutions, science can use GE crops in ways that are specific in Africa`s needs. South Africa is far from an ideal country for crop production. Less than 15% of its land is arable and there are serious climatic constraints such as periodic droughts. Despite these circumstances, productivity must increase to provide food security for a growing population. Scientists could help farmers in the developing world to harness GE crops in the fight against hunger, by enabling them to move away from a `crisis management approach` towards a sustainable agriculture that will avoid famine.

Genetic modification provides us with a way of meeting the growing demand for food without placing even greater pressure on our scarce resource. It allows us to grow better-quality crops with higher yields while at the same time protecting the environment.

South Africa recognized potential benefits that could arise from biotechnology, and government developed the National Biotechnology Strategy. The Strategy aims at harnessing the benefits of biotechnology necessary for sustainable development, including increased food production and mitigation of adverse environmental impacts on food production. However, before the strategy was developed a need for legislation to control all aspects of genetically modified organisms had existed for some time.

Activities around agricultural biotechnology were already regulated under and Act of Parliament. The Genetically Modified Organism Act of 1997 (Act No.15 of 1997). This Act was implemented on 1 December 1999, making provisions for new biosafety assessment of GMO`s.

The Act has the following objectives:

The Act makes provision for the appointment and establishment of decision-making bodies, namely the Executive Council, Advisory Committee and the Registrar. Since its implementation in December 199, all activities with genetically modified organisms in South Africa are conducted according to a permit system and therefore all permission and responsibility resides with the legally established authority.

To date South Africa has given approval for the planting of three crops: Cotton, maize and soybean which may be insect / or herbicide resistant.

South Africa still has to increase food production considerably over the next decade to feed its people. By inserting genes, which will enhance various characteristics of different crop plants, farmers (both small and commercial) will be able to produce better crops. Vaccines can be developed to protect our livestock, while microorganisms, which are used in fermentation and other processes, are improved. Improvements can be made to nutritional qualities such as Vitamin A, which can play an important role in combating disease in a million people.

Are GM foods safe to eat?

Environmentalists have expressed a number of concerns regarding genetically modified foods. Concerns also have arised about the fact that Gm foods are on the market, but not labeled, so consumers do not know what they are eating. Draft regulations on the labeling of foodstuffs derived from certain techniques of genetic modification are in place with the Department of Health.

By implementing the Draft Regulations two objectives would be achieved:

  1. To establish trace ability that allows the withdrawal of foodstuffs, from the market place that could be a risk to human health or the environment.
  2. To assist in the control and verification of labeling claims.

It is therefore conclusive that South Africa in comparison with most sister countries in the region, has the necessary capacity to deal with biotechnology including introduction of genetically modified organisms.

Genetically modified organisms have potentially beneficial applications, thus the issue should not be dismissed but debated, so that consumers can get accurate information, and be fully informed so that they can have confidence in the regulatory process.