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Govt mulls state pharmaceutical company

The SA government was mulling the formation of a state-owned pharmaceutical company, African National Congress (ANC) secretary general Gwede Mantashe said at Luthuli House on Tuesday.

Mantashe was addressing reporters at the ruling party’s headquarters in Johannesburg following an ANC lekgotla (meeting) on July 17.

“There is a need and this is in line with our Polokwane resolutions. At the moment South Africa consumes 25% of the world’s ARVs [antiretrovirals], and it’s with this in mind that we are looking at starting a state-owned pharmaceutical company,” Mantashe said.

According to research carried out by the ANC into HIV/Aids infection rates, South Africa has 17% of the world’s HIV-positive people.

“We had an idea for a state-owned mine company. That company is now running a coal mine and will open another one soon,” he said.

Mantashe assured reporters the company would not threaten the pharmaceutical industry.

“There is a need and this is in line with our Polokwane resolutions. This doesn’t mean the pharmaceutical industry will close down. The state-owned pharmaceutical company will operate within the industry,” he said.

‘Brazil is opening a branch in Mozambique’
Citing examples of other countries with state-owned pharmaceutical companies, Mantashe questioned the sustainability of relying on private companies to provide drugs to South Africa’s health sector.

“China, Cuba, Brazil — there are many countries … Brazil is even opening a branch in Mozambique. Why should we be a market for the Brazilian pharmaceutical company when we could be a market for ourselves?” Mantashe asked.

He said that over 12-million South Africans had been tested for HIV/Aids in 2011, marking a significant improvement from the approximately two million tested in 2010.

Mum on protector
Mantashe also told reporters the recent Public Protector’s report into police leases entered into by the South African Police Services (SAPS) was not discussed at the lekgotla.

Advocate Thuli Madonsela recently released a damning report calling for President Jacob Zuma to take immediate action against Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and police National Commissioner Bheki Cele for maladministration.

“The Public Protector’s report was not an issue for the NEC lekgotla. The report must be handed over to the president so he can make his decision accordingly. It can’t be opened for public discussion just yet, then he [Zuma] may as well stay at home and listen to the media reports,” Mantashe said.

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Nickolaus Bauer
Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend.

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