The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology is concerned about the suggestion that state-owned entities bid to supply vaccines to the health system.

Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said this requirement defeats the purpose for which state-owned entities in the pharmaceutical sector are established for.

“The National Treasury is arguing that state-owned entities must bid to supply vaccines to the health system like any other company. This position affects government’s position around the necessity to establish a state-owned pharmaceutical company,” said Dr Nzimande.

“The aim, when this idea was conceived, was precisely not to subject the supply of critical vaccines to the market forces. Big companies will collapse state-owned companies through providing the vaccines very cheaply.”

The ministry will this week meet with sister departments like Trade and Industry, Health and the National Treasury on the matter.

On Tuesday, Minister Nzimande led a strong delegation from the Department of Science, Technology and Innovation that came to present the Draft White Paper on Science and Technology. He said advances had been made in the sector but “there are challenges to be transcended like absence of women and black people in the science fields”.

The Chairperson of the committee, Mr Phillemon Mapulane, concurred and said the committee was happy with the department’s approach. “It is correct that the state must play a part in the supply of vaccines to the market, this is an aspect the country can never leave to the market alone. They will seek to maximise profit through the supply of critical vaccines,” he said.

The White Paper had already been adopted when the Department of Science and Technology was merged with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Dr Nzimande said he will receive a briefing on the Draft White Paper, as well as the White Paper on Post-School Education, whose implementation had already been adopted. “Changes are necessary, a lot has happened under the auspices of the old White Paper. The member’s input will raise factors that the department will take to account when it finalises the White Paper,” he said.

“The department has been leading the way in generating industries in the country,” he said.

By Sibongile Maputi
20 August 2019