6 August 2003
Cabinet was today briefed on various matters pertaining to HIV and AIDS.
Firstly, the meeting noted the statement of the Medicines Control Council (MCC) to request additional information from the manufacturers of Nevirapine with regard to its efficacy in preventing HIV mother-to-child-transmission. The meeting noted that this was an independent decision taken on scientific grounds by the MCC, and urged that public discourse on this matter should take into account the mandate of the MCC and its responsibility to the South African people.
It called on those who purport to have scientific information on the efficacy of Nevirapine for PMTCT, including the manufacturers, to provide such information to the MCC within the window period of 90 days that the MCC has provided. It should also be noted that the decision of the MCC does not affect the use of Nevirapine as part of general antiretroviral regimens; nor is Nevirapine the only drug (or combination of drugs) that can be used for reducing the risk of mother-to-child-transmission.
Government is studying the implications of these developments for its current programmes and the Constitutional Court ruling, pending the final decision of the MCC. Once such a final decision has been taken, whatever approach is adopted by government will be guided by its concern for the health of both mothers and babies affected by HIV.
Secondly, Cabinet was informed, and welcomed the fact, that ASPEN Pharmacare, a pharmaceutical company, had reached the stage of production of some generic antiretroviral drugs in South Africa. Already, the first (Aspen-Stavudine) of a package of such generic drugs that can be used in various combinations as part of treatment for people with the AID Syndrome is being produced, with production of other drugs to start as soon as relevant formalities have been undertaken.
Thirdly, the meeting expressed its concern at the misinformation being spread around a decision by Cabinet not to include a provision on preventative treatment (prophylaxis) in a Bill dealing with victims of sexual assault. The fact of the matter is that provision of this relief is already government policy, decided upon in April last year and being implemented incrementally in all parts of the country. This programme will continue.
The question around inclusion of the provision in legislation is about a broader issue of what kind of detailed executive decisions to codify in law as justiciable rights; rather than a reversal of Cabinet’s earlier decision or any concern, as suggested by some, around available resources. This concern has not arisen because resources have been allocated for this programme, now and into the future. The same question about executive policies and programmes on the one hand, and implications of codifying these as justiciable rights beyond what is contained in the Constitution on the other, has arisen with regard to other policy areas particularly in the social sector.
Lastly, the meeting reiterated the commitment of Cabinet to urgently process the report of the Task Team on enhanced treatment of HIV and AIDS, once the report is tabled before it. Cabinet is anxious that this should happen as soon as possible.
The following Bills were approved for submission to Parliament:
- Social Assistance Bill which reassigns the social grants function to the National sphere of government in line with the decision to set up a national Social Security Agency;
- Companies Amendment Bill which introduces amendments on effective mechanisms to deal with delinquent directors;
- Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill which devolves some of the powers currently with the Minister and DG to Provincial MEC’s and Heads of Department;
- Traditional Health Practitioners Bill which recognises and regulates traditional health practice; and
- SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport Amendment Bill which redefines some of the structures, roles and functions of the Institute.
The meeting also approved the release for public comment of:
- Draft Radioactive Waste Management Policy and Strategy for SA, which will now be released for public comment; and
- Sterilisation Amendment Bill which seeks to enhance protection of the rights of children and mentally disabled persons.
The meeting was also briefed on the content of the Community Reinvestment (Housing) Bill which seeks to improve on the provisions of the Home Loan and Mortgage Disclosure Act, by proposing a programme of minimum targets and standards for lending for housing in respect of low- and medium-income households. While accepting the broad principles contained in the Bill, Cabinet agreed that the process of finalising such legislation should await the outcome of discussions on the BEE Charter for the Financial Sector.
Cabinet noted current debates around the role and future of the investigative unit, the Scorpions in the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions. It reiterated the statement by the President that there was no intention on the part of government to dissolve the Scorpions, precisely because the reasons that led to the setting up of the unit still obtain. Matters pertaining to the rationalisation and clear definition of mandates between the Scorpions and SAPS, or any structural tension, will continue to be processed by both the Scorpions and SAPS as well as relevant Ministers, with the aim of building effective, efficient and integrated instruments to deal with the scourge of crime.
The following appointments were approved:
- Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba whose contract as DG is extended for a period of 3 years, and who will assume the position of DG: Department of Foreign Affairs from 1 September 2003;
- Sizwe Errol Nxasana as CEO of Telkom for a further period of two years with effect from January 2004; and
- Ms Nomazizi Mtshotshisa as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Telkom for a further year with effect from 1 August 2003.
Cabinet approved the implementation of an Energy Efficiency Programme (mainly replacing existing light fittings and bulbs with more efficient ones) starting with all National Government offices. This small step takes further the WSSD recommendation on energy for sustainable development, which highlighted energy efficiency as one of the most economic practices to promote sustainable development.
The meeting approved the participation of three additional members of the SANDF in the UN and AU Missions in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE and OLMEE). They will complement the 12 already deployed as observers, liaison officers or staff officers.
Cabinet was presented with reports from the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) for the periods 1 July to 31 December 2002, and from 1 January 2003 to 31 March 2003. The Chairperson of the NCACC will make relevant information on this matter available to the public as soon as practicable.
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Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)