South Africa

ANALYSIS

Why the EFF’s march on Sahpra should be rejected with contempt

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema. (Photos: Gallo Images / Misha Jordaan / Papi Morake)

Julius Malema’s planned march to the headquarters of the health products regulator is not just based on bad science. It’s also a continuation of what the EFF has proved it’s best at — bullying women.

Today (Friday), Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu will lead supporters in a march to the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) in Tshwane to demand instant approval for Chinese and Russian Covid-19 vaccines.

The march is in itself a criminally reckless project, given the soaring Covid-19 rates in Gauteng. Judging by the EFF leaders’ social media accounts, they have been encouraging celebrities and young people to see this march as a necessary step towards allowing mass entertainment events to take place once more in South Africa.

Malema and Shivambu both know this is not true, and are consciously encouraging the public to participate in what has all the makings of a super-spreader event under false pretences. They should carry any Covid-19 infections that may result on their consciences.  

It has, by now, been repeatedly explained how the Sahpra approval process works. That, before anything else happens, the body requires the submission of all the necessary documentation from the vaccine-makers themselves. It was only on Wednesday that Sahpra received this for the Sinopharm vaccine — and it hasn’t yet completed evaluating the safety data for the Sputnik V vaccine.

Lobbying regulators to speed up the approval of health products is not new. In the past, it has even been important to do so: in the early 2000s, for instance, when South African activists were demanding the roll-out of nevirapine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The thing about health activists, however, is that they tend to know something about public health. As the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated worldwide, the same is absolutely not true for politicians.

If this emergency has shown anything, in fact, it is the absolute necessity of keeping politicians as far away from bodies like Sahpra as possible.

Former US president Donald Trump suggested drinking bleach to cure Covid-19. Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina tried to push a herbal tonic on the entire African Union as a cure. In South Sudan, President Salva Kiir and senior politicians wore special badges which they believed would guard against contracting the coronavirus. These are not the people you want leaning on health authorities, and neither is the EFF’s leadership – or that of AfriForum, for that matter, which tried to bully Sahpra into giving the go-ahead for ivermectin as a treatment, against the advice of the drug’s own manufacturer.

Indeed, the idea that political parties should be given the right to interfere with the registration of drugs should strike us all as a chilling prospect.

As it happens, there are already indications that the Chinese vaccines are not performing as well as hoped. Chile has vaccinated almost half its population with two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, yet had to re-enter lockdown this month after experiencing a resurgence of Covid-19 on a par with its first wave.

The World Health Organization (WHO) cautions against drawing any firm conclusions yet, though, because it simply lacks data. There has not yet been large-scale monitoring of the efficacy of the roll-outs of the Chinese vaccines.

When it comes to the Sputnik V vaccine, meanwhile, a WHO report has identified serious concerns at one of the four Russian facilities producing the doses.

What the EFF is calling for is to roll out these vaccines to the South African public in the absence of clear data on efficacy and the known presence of some serious issues in their manufacturing. This is doubly weird given the existent hesitancy of many South Africans to receive even the proven vaccines; what Malema and Shivambu are demanding is effectively that already cautious South Africans make themselves guinea pigs for under-tested products. Good luck to them with that.

But there is little point in trying to counter propaganda with science. The EFF, it is patently clear, has no actual interest in vaccine data or sensible public health protocols. The march is a political stunt from a party that has seen its relevance dwindle to nothingness during the pandemic, and the vast majority of South Africans will identify it as such.

Something worth pointing out, however, is the figures explicitly focused on by the EFF’s anti-Sahpra rhetoric. It has chosen to target for particular abuse Professor Helen Rees, the chair of the Sahpra board, and the body’s CEO, Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela: two women, in other words. The EFF has also threatened to direct protest action specifically at Semete-Makokotlela’s private home.

These techniques are now familiar to anyone who has been following the EFF’s targeting of female journalists over recent years. While paying lip service to feminism, the party has repeatedly established itself as a hyper-masculine, violent, militaristic body.

Its leaders have, again and again, singled out individual women as representative of particular issues and effectively tossed them to the party’s supporters to face real danger. They do this while housing within the party’s ranks the likes of Patrick Sindane, now promoted to the post of MP in the National Assembly, who in 2009 was credibly accused of involvement in the gang rape of a sex worker. Sindane has always denied the charge, which was never aired in court because the woman in question mysteriously disappeared.

With every passing year, the EFF makes it clear exactly who it is and what it stands for. The current action against Sahpra is just a reiteration of the same nasty theme. DM

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  • I saw Julius Malema’s interview in its entirety. Having spent most of my career in a business in the medical sector, particularly within the drug development area, I can safely say of his pronouncements that if Malema’s knowledge of Regulatory Affairs was poured into a thimble it would be 99% empty.

    • Rusi, exactly! But to me the real act of criminality is the treats the EFF posted via WhatsApp to Sahpra women workers, and the threat to the CEO of Sahpra (also a women) to stage a “sleep in” at her private home” Surely that is a criminal offense. The EFF leadership should thus be arrested, and charged!

        • I don’t believe it’s that hard to understand.

          The EFF still fills the void of the ANC’s need for threatening, radical rhetoric that was created when Malema left the ANC, after which the Youth League, that would usually fulfil that role, became a damp squib. In my opinion Malema is tolerated and even protected by the ruling party because he fulfils a useful role. An archetypical useful idiot.

          Even the much respected Tito has shown his tolerance for the Malema-Shivambo bromance, on occasion exchanging friendly banter with them in public forums, and even calling for their return to their home in the ANC.

          They needle the ANC’s enemies: law-abiding tax payers and a brave and functioning media who are tired of footing the ruling party’s bill for Johnny Walker soaked parties and luxury cars. And when things go south for them they can be dumped and flushed without any of the excrement spattering back on the ANC. Very useful indeed.

          Here is the question: does Malema know that that is all he is? A useful, noisy ANC stooge?

          • Brilliant comment. Reminds me when Ramaphosa during a Q & A session in parliament, and in answering to an aggressive question by Malema, answer the latter by starting his answer with the following (edited): Mr. Malema, as a future President…..

          • As Coen replied – Brilliant comment. To answer the question – jm definitely knows, because he is being protected and handsomely compensated for that job by cr and the rest of his anc cronies.

          • Spot on Hendrik. I have had this suspicion ever since JM left the ANC after saying he would die for Zuma. Between the EFF and the ANC they have turned the SA government into a Criminal network where the law is there to protect them

          • You have hit the nail on the head Hendrik – the ANC are using Julius as a threat to voters who do not vote ANC! Old political trick! Sis tog!

          • Are you indeed saying that the ANC are simply using Julius as a cunning stunt? May be appropriate.

  • It will be interesting to see if the police have the courage to implement the law.
    Hopefully the NPA is close to prosecuting him for VBS and other wrongdoings
    !

  • While I agree the EFF leaders should be held responsible for their utterences, it is disingenuous to absolve the willing participants to these events. The EFF is not forcing anyone, as far as I know to participate in the potentially super spreaders, each individual that does will do so freely, and as such should rightly bear the consequences of their actions.

    We are here because adults were made to believe they are perpetual children, the don’t have to bear the consequences of their own actions past 18. Have a baby, someone will provide for it’s nutrition, schooling all the way to tertiary for free (even if, themselves never went to tertiary). Need a house, you’ll get that for free too, same as electricity, water etc! Even your own needs as a perpetual child will be provided for, including free data and STB for the TV that has no valid licence, grants for being unemployable/ unemployed, free healthcare etc

    Well, nothing is for free, there’s consequences.

    • Salatiso, whilst accurate in your assessment, he invited (promised) EFF supporters and even supporters of other political parties to join in the march. This is like a top hip-hop artist setting up a stage to perform and expect people not to attend

    • Not forcing anyone? You mean like Trump on the 6th Jan at the Capitol? Both men are mysogynist racists in my opinion….

  • Someone should check Julius and co’s bank balances to see if a deposit has been made with Chinese or Russian connections.

  • Just like a certain ex-US President, all Malema really wants is publicity and attention to feed his enlarged ego. And when he gets it he thinks it gives him power, which is partly true. But the only way to test that properly is to ignore him and let the law takes its course when his ludicrous demands are ignored. Except in SA the wheels of justice grind to a sudden halt when any politically-connected perpetrator is involved. This has all the hallmarks of brewing rebellion where the only solution is revolution.

  • “Malema and Shivambu both know this is not true, and are consciously encouraging the public to participate in what has all the makings of a super-spreader event under false pretences. They should carry any Covid-19 infections that may result on their consciences.” These two have no conscience, so should be charged with murder or manslaughter should there be fatalities after the event.

    • Agree Gerrie, or at the very least, charged with attempted murder for encouraging a super spreader event, against the current covid-19 regulations. What upset me even more, as that there is likely be as many police officers attending as there are people participating in the actual march….smoking cigarettes, rifle’s only pointing halfway downward, laughing, and joining the dancing groups, as happened at the student fee protests in February..

  • Methinks the EFF does protest too much. It reminds me of when they were fighting to keep VBS open – and we now know that was to cover up their looting. Do they possibly have something financial to gain from this….follow the money.

  • As Ms Davis suggests….it is a drive for relevance. This lot is just SOOO divorced from our norms and standards. These types of people are found all over the world, not just here is SA.

  • Why do the media give these thugs so much airtime! By doing this, you are complicit in giving a voice to someone who has very little (if anything) useful to say and when they do speak, it is invariably incendiary.

  • Any attempt at the cost of anyone to stay relevant is the motto of the EFF Thugs. Their goals are clear…How do we make this work for the EFF and stuff the rest and that includes health and woman.

  • The solution is simple.
    SAPS must do policing. It is their constitutional mandate. All illegal gatherings must be stopped especially where they threaten violence and spread disease.

  • How on earth can Parliament have Malema as one of their representatives on the JSC? Are there no criteria as to who should represent Parliament on this erstwhile august body?

  • Every political party should lay a criminal charge against the leadership of the EFF as they have a moral and legal obligation to protect their own communities and supporters/voters.

    These morons who attended this event will be going back into their respective societies and further exacerbate the the spread of Covid -19.

    It would be interesting to see which party does not lay a criminal charge?

  • Malema should be locked up for promoting murder. Cele as top cop should be dismissed from the service. Why is the Western Cape starved of police. It smacks of the ANC wanting the Cape to fail

    • SAHPRA should enlist JM & Co for human trials with the Sputnik and the Sinopharm vaccines… let’s see if they are willing to take the vaccine publicly…

      • Fred, I think the answer about the number of police in the WC is the same as the supply of vaccines – the ANC is throttling the supply in an effort to get it to look like a failure.

  • Well, if Julius and his team really want to help SA get extra vaccines approved more quickly, then instead of marching and threatening, they should be offering themselves to SARPRA for any testing that has to be done – after all, they are convinced these vaccines are safe!
    Otherwise, we might be tempted to think that the whole thing was just a political publicity stunt.

  • The tragedy of this debacle is that the people (who should be entitled to it) of these two vaccine producing countries have had minimal immunization … but like India till not too long ago, are ready to supply/export to other countries . Something in that equation is crazy … like those clowns demanding their availability here !

  • If the EFF were truly upset about the availability of vaccines, the clear option (which surely should also fit with their political philosophy) should have been to march on Big Pharma or any of the ‘hoarding’ embassies?