EFF leader and commander in chief Julius Malema has accused President Cyril Ramaphosa and his administration of intentionally dragging their feet regarding Covid-19 vaccine acquisition and roll-out, as they stand to gain financially from government’s sluggish vaccination programme.
“Ramabillion without a billion. Cyril [Ramaphosa] likes pretending that he has got billions; he has no money. He is going to get his money now, through Covid-19, because they are stealing PPE [personal protective equipment] money and vaccine money,” Malema said.
He made the claims without giving any substantial proof and notwithstanding that, in 2019, Forbes published that Ramaphosa was the seventeenth richest South African, with a “net worth of R6.4 billion”.
Malema made his utterances outside the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) offices during his party’s protest action in Pretoria on Friday, where they demanded the speedy provision of vaccines to all citizens.
He said that South Africa was being “led by stupid people who are protected by the stupid media”, and was adamant that all his party was demanding was “more vaccines to be made available”.
While a sea of red filled the venue in Arcadia, Malema ironically argued that the event was not a superspreader, despite the fact that social distancing was not being observed by the crowd of well over 1 000 people.
This after, just over a week ago, Ramaphosa announced the country’s move to lockdown level 3, he said that all gatherings would be limited to a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
Malema said: “The president and his government have eaten our money. Our people are dying in their numbers.
“They are telling us that this event is a superspreader, but it is not true because we are meeting here, outdoors, for a few minutes and then from there we are going home, and we comply with Covid-19 regulations.
“Our schools have more kids than this march, yet our event is called a superspreader.”
RT @JKwritingz: Malema's ironically argues that this event is not by any means a super spreader event notwithstanding the fact that social distancing is not being observed by the crowd that exceeds a 100 people.— City Press (@City_Press) June 25, 2021
The EFF leader added that, “if we sit and do nothing about this vaccine issue”, South Africa would possibly face “a fourth, fifth, tenth and even thirtieth wave”.
“These people will keep on locking us down, and lockdown is not a solution. The solution is to vaccinate the majority of South Africans.”
According to the EFF, the party’s main bone of contention is that “it has become evident that the government is failing to provide vaccines to all South Africans, and this is enabled by Sahpra”, which the red berets say “is refusing to authorise the usage of vaccines from China and Russia”.
“Russia says, if you approve Sputnik in South Africa, we will give you 15 million doses. China says, if you approve Sinovac, we will give you 15 million. So, we could have 30 million doses and vaccinate a lot of our people,” Malema said.
He subsequently called on government to open the economy and allow gatherings to open so as to allow “our people to start working and making money”.
“I will never fight Cyril Ramaphosa because he is a puppet of white monopoly capital. If it was white people marching here today, they [white monopoly capital that Ramaphosa is supposedly a puppet of] were going to be sympathetic to the white people’s cause. But when it is us, we are told rubbish. And what is even worse is that the rubbish comes from our own – black people, who claim to be clever blacks.”
With a crowd of EFF supporters, other political parties and civil society, as well as workers in the creative industry stationed outside the Sahpra offices, party deputy president Floyd Shivambu read out a memorandum intended to be handed over to Sahpra, which tabled their demands.
“Sahpra must finalise the approval and authorisation of Sputnik V and Sinovac vaccines within seven days, and the South African government must make these vaccines available to all South Africans,” Shivambu read.
The party’s second demand was a shocking one – the EFF called for the removal of Helen Rees as chairperson of the Sahpra board as “she is conflicted and doing everything in her power to prevent the authorisation of vaccines that are not associated with Aspen, as she is currently married to Fazel Randera, who owns shares in Aspen”.
Shivambu said: “Aspen is the local partner of Johnson & Johnson, so, the chairperson of the Sahpra board stands to privately benefit if Sputnik V and Sinovac are not authorised in South Africa.
“We also demand that Sahpra must expedite all scientifically tested and proven vaccines, through all parts of the world, including Cuba, for massive roll-out in South Africa.
“These demands will ensure that South Africa will have diverse access to suppliers, and this will ensure the immediate availability of vaccines to millions of our people. We make these demands because we believe that it is only through mass vaccination that South Africa will be able to reopen the economy.”
Echoing his president’s sentiment, in closing, Shivambu said: “Lockdown restrictions and regulations are not solutions to the pandemic. Vaccines are currently our only scientific solutions.”
Meanwhile, acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said government had fast-tracked plans to vaccinate people over the age of 50 after a low uptake from those older than 60.
Having heeded the EFF’s calls for all South Africans inclusive of workers in the creative industry to join the protest, rapper Riky Rick took to the stage to address the crowd, and he told them that, by the end of the year, all South Africans should have been vaccinated.
“Parties aside, all we are asking for are vaccines for the masses. It is not about political stunts, it is about making sure that we do this with urgency, before we go into a fourth or fifth lockdown,” Rick said, to a cheering crowd.
Representing the EFF Student Command, its president, Mandla Shikwambana, lamented the dire situation faced by students who, due to lockdowns, have been forced to study online, amid high data costs.
“As the young people of South Africa, we want vaccines, we do not want lockdowns any more, because vaccines are the only way we can get our lives back,” he said.
“At universities, students are struggling to learn, and we know of a number of Covid-19 cases at universities, where students and lecturers have tested positive, yet life continues as normal at these institutions, because no one has been confronting the system.
“We cannot continue with this online learning system where students struggle with access to data and the internet. We need to attend lectures physically at campuses. Vaccines are needed for us to be able to do this. Give the masses the vaccine.”
A contingency of the African Transformation Movement (ATM) was also in attendance “to show its support for the EFF in its call for vaccines from Russia and China to be made available,” the ATM Gauteng chairperson told City Press.
In a statement released by Sahpra on Friday, following the protest outside its offices, the regulatory authority said it could not allow “political pressure to cloud a clear science-based approach to approving health products, where the safety of the public could be compromised”.
“It will be a sad day in the country when the regulator is undermined or influenced by any party,” read the statement.
Sahpra acknowledged receipt of the EFF’s memorandum, to which the regulatory authority said it would respond.