Earlier this month DearSA noted with great concern the national government’s purported prohibition on private and provincial procurement of any COVID-19 vaccines.
From 15 January 2021 until 28 February 2021, DearSA ran a public participation campaign regarding the national government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy. Over 17 000 South Africans participated in the process and exercised their constitutional rights within our participative constitutional democracy.
DearSA applied to be a friend of the court in the ongoing litigation regarding COVID-19 vaccine procurement in light of the participants’ comments. On 1 March 2021, DearSA’s legal team filed court papers and brought the submissions of 17 000 participants before the court, enabling their voices to be heard.
“The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is an important issue for all South Africans insisting on a choice. We ensured that their voices are formally heard in this ground-breaking court case. DearSA will continue to ensure the voices of all South Africans are heard through our public participation platform and campaigns.” said Rob Hutchinson, executive director of DearSA.
In the government’s court papers, the Department of Health’s Director-General acknowledged that the government could not have total control over the purchase, rollout, and administering of vaccines. As a result, the private procurement of COVID-19 vaccines is not prohibited.
South Africans who participated on DearSA’s platform voiced the following major concerns regarding the government’s vaccine rollout plan:
Firstly, the government acted outside of its constitutional mandate and without an empowering provision when it prohibited the private and provincial procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. This conduct by the government was consequently ultra vires.
Secondly, centralising the procurement process creates an administrative burden for the government, slowing the rollout of vaccines and, as a consequence leaving the most vulnerable South Africans behind in vaccine distribution.
Thirdly, that allowing for the parallel procurement of vaccines in cooperation with the private sector would ensure safeguards and freedom of choice, to the benefit of all South Africans.
Lastly, a decentralised approach to vaccine procurement is the most efficient, most rapid, and allows less room for corruption.
DearSA will continue to monitor the government’s rollout plan.