Trade union Solidarity has written to the World Health Organisation raising concerns around the South African government’s plans to promote black empowerment through the rollout of vaccines.
This comes after Afrikaans newspaper Rapport reported that president Cyril Ramaphosa recently told an ANC top six meeting that the rollout of vaccines would provide an opportunity for black economic empowerment.
Solidarity said that the pandemic is threatening people’s lives and that regulations must make it as easy as possible to combat the pandemic. Barriers of race should not be part of this process, it said.
“We would therefore express our firm belief that during a time of such a devastating disaster there should be no differentiation and or discrimination either directly and or indirectly on the basis of race, gender and or other listed grounds as set out in section 9(3) of the Constitution,” Solidarity said in its letter.
“In the grips of a pandemic, risking both the livelihoods as well as the lives of citizens no one should seek to profit. Ramaphosa was resolute in his rebuke of PPE and food tender scandals which exposed individuals who sought to opportunistically benefit from the pandemic. Yet, it appears as though he has abandoned this stance.”
Won’t be a plethora of opportunities
Speaking at the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum on 19 January, the president said the government plans to look at how black-owned businesses can participate in the recovery of the country’s economy in 2021.
The president said this will include a focus on the key economic sectors which drive the economy and the role that black people have in these areas.
“That in my view will be the game changer. Sometimes we talk in broad terms about the economy, we now need to go deeper into exactly what makes the economy works and function, and the participation of black people in all areas of economic activity.
“We will then see how best we can get black people to participate. This is the year that we should be able to do that and move the needle of economic empowerment for women, young people and black people broadly.
“We need to be able to say in a few years time that the empowerment of our people is now becoming a reality.”
Ramaphosa said that black-owned businesses in the country should also be given an opportunity to participate in South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
However, the president said that while there will be some opportunities for these businesses there won’t be a ‘plethora’ of chances as the vaccines will be purchased by the government.
“The distribution is going to be the area where we find opportunities (for black businesses). This is where businesses and forums need to get together and look at the contribution that they can make. We want to support black businesses,” he said.