The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) welcomes the reappointment of Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi as Minister of Health. His reappointment signals a seriousness from the ruling party in effectively dealing with the problems in our healthcare system and improving the lives of all in South Africa.
Over the past five years Dr. Motsoaledi has shown strong leadership as Minister of Health with a clear determination to solve the health system’s deep systemic problems. The Minister oversaw the rapid expansion of South Africa’s HIV programme, ensuring that 2.4 million people in the country are now accessing life-saving antiretroviral treatment. This brought an end to a long period of AIDS denialism that led to thousands of avoidable deaths. From his first day in the post Motsoaledi worked closely with civil society organisations and other stakeholders and implemented a range of sensible policies.
Minister Motsoaledi has reacted speedily to crises such as drug stock-outs and high death rates at hospitals, despite having limited influence in provincial health systems. He has faced significant challenges in getting the provinces to work harder at implementation and to show commitment. The struggling provincial health systems are partly a result of poor appointments in the Health MEC positions. In this regard the replacement of Sicelo Gqobana with Dr. Phumza Dyantyi as MEC of Health in the Eastern Cape is an especially hopeful sign.
The reappointment of Dr. Motsoaledi will provide much needed continuity with ongoing processes such as the implementation of National Health Insurance, the market inquiry into private healthcare, reform of South Africa’s patent laws, reform of medicines regulation, and regulation of alcohol and tobacco advertising. The TAC will support Dr. Motsoaledi in seeing through these various reforms and making sure that the right to access healthcare is progressively realised as required by the Constitution of South Africa.
The TAC also welcomes the reappointment of Dr. Rob Davies as Minister of Trade and Industry. Under the leadership of Minister Davies, the Department of Trade and Industry produced a draft policy on intellectual property that proposed a number of important changes to improve access to affordable medicines in the future. The TAC will support Minister Davies in reforming South Africa’s patent laws to utilise the pro-public health safeguards provided in international law, in line with the Constitutional obligation to progressively realise the right to access healthcare. While we are critical of the length of time this process has taken to date, we hope that the continuity in the Ministry means no further delays will occur.
In this regard we also welcome the appointment of Naledi Pandor as Minister of Science and Technology. Having held this position before and having headed the ANC’s Health Committee, we trust that she has a good understanding of the challenges in the health system. We hope that under her leadership the Department of Science and Technology can play a more constructive role in balancing the right to access healthcare with the interests of patent holders.
Finally, we also welcome the appointment of Cyril Ramaphosa as Deputy President of South Africa. As Deputy President he will replace Kgalema Motlanthe as the chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC). It is our wish that the Deputy President will engage with SANAC and help spark a reinvigorated national response to the co-epidemics of HIV and TB.
For general comment contact Anele Yawa on 079 328 1215
For comment relating to patent law reform contact Lotti Rutter on 081 818 8493