NEWS & ANALYSIS

SAHRC must investigate govt’s failure to rollout vaccines – Siviwe Gwarube

MP says the process has been marred by breathtaking tardiness

DA to approach the Human Rights Commission for government’s failure to rollout vaccines

6 April 2021

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

Today, the DA will approach the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to urgently launch an investigation into government’s tardy and criminally slow vaccine rollout strategy. This is in addition to the decision the party has taken to explore further legal challenge against the South African government on this matter.

South Africa began its vaccine rollout exactly seven weeks with the Johnson and Johnson Sisonke trial which is meant to overlap with phase 1 of the rollout to cover the target of 1.2 million healthcare workers. To date, just over 269 000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated – a fraction of the target. The trial alone is meant to cover 500 000 healthcare workers but has been impossibly slow. In the last 4 days alone, not a single jab has been administered.

The Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, continuously blames external and global factors for the throttled supply of the vaccine. However, South Africa’s acquisition was slow as we receive drips and drabs of supply; thus the rollout is pitiful.

For the past couple of months South Africans have been pleaded with to be patient as misleading words such as ‘secured doses’ have been bandied about to create a false sense of productivity by the South African government. All this is happening while there is a real threat of a 3rd wave of infections exacerbated by the winter season.

We cannot continue hoping that the timeline which keeps on being adjusted for the impossible delays will be met because nothing has gone according to government’s plan to date. The process has been marred by breathtaking tardiness.

This is why the DA will be approaching the SAHRC to launch an investigation into the entire vaccination process thus far. The reality is that the progressive right to health is enshrined in the constitution and the SAHRC is best placed – squarely so – with launching such an investigation and making binding findings. The commission has yet to show its constitutionally empowered teeth with any of the human rights violations in the recent while. This is their opportunity now to do right by the people of South Africa.

The DA will also continue with its exploration of a legal challenge on this government failure.

As the official opposition, it is our responsibility to ensure that we hold government accountable for the biggest and most important public health response since the dawn of democracy. Millions of South Africans who are vulnerable to this virus depend on a functioning government that will do what is necessary to rollout vaccines as soon as possible. We are not comforted by the publishing of big numbers of ‘secured’ vaccines when we can hardly get the basics right of targeting healthcare workers and vaccinating a fair amount daily.

Issued by Siviwe Gwarube, DA Shadow Minister of Health, 6 April 2021