Scramble for Covid vaccine billions – Black business wants their cut

Johannesburg – A scramble is ensuing over the billions of rand in connection with the massive rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

Black business organisations have demanded that the government set aside almost half of the portion of the contracts related to the transportation and storage of the vaccine to black-owned companies.

Afrikaner lobby groups AfriForum and Solidarity were going to court for the state to allow private companies to buy vaccines.


Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced this week that South Africa would be receiving 1.5-million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine between this month and next month (1-million in January and 500 000 in February).

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Black businesses said they do not want to lose out on the business of the vaccines the same way they did in the initial stages of the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) said the government had to set aside 40% of the contracts related to the rollout of the vaccine to blackowned companies.

Nafcoc acting president Gilbert Mosena said they had members who had capacity to handle the logistics of the delivery of the vaccines, including transport and storage. “The highest percentage of infected or affected people are living in the townships in predominantly black areas where hospitals are overcrowded and frontline workers are overwhelmed. It would be gravely amiss if black logistics/ transport and storage or medical supplies companies were overlooked on the value chain to township hospitals and clinics,” he said.

“We would not like to see the same marginalisation of black business happen again as it did with the procurement process of PPE in which white companies were given big procurement deals even in our townships.” Last May , Sunday World reported that the list of companies awarded multi-billion-rand contracts to supply PPE was dominated by contractors that were predominantly white-owned.

The Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) called on the government to ensure that entrepreneurs in the pharmaceutical sector were included in the supply chain of vaccines and that there should be “non-negotiable” principles of black economic empowerment in all procurement processes.

“PPF is participating in discussions between the state, Black Business Council and other critical social partners to ensure that in the main black and patriotic entrepreneurs play a critical role in the supply of vaccine and the distribution thereof and avoid the corruption associated with procurement of PPE during lockdown level 5,” he said.

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The Soweto Business Chamber said it wanted to see 60% of transportation and distribution of vaccines in township hospitals and clinics awarded to township businesses.

The chamber’s deputy secretary, Sybil Louw, appealed to the national and provincial governments to consider the township economy in the rollout of the vaccines.

“We as black business in Soweto and surrounding areas need to play a role in the value chain as we cannot allow big business again to take the procurement of transport, logistics and storage when it is distributed in township clinics and hospitals,” she said.

A member of the vaccine rollout task team said the country would need R10-billion to vaccinate 67% of the population.

He said Mkhize had tasked them with raising some of the money.

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Solidarity and Afri- Forum have instructed their legal teams to prepare a case challenging the government’s “proposed monopoly” on the buying and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

“Throughout the lockdown period the government has proven that when it has a monopoly on Covid-19-related policies and tasks, corruption and inefficiency tend to be rampant.

“AfriForum therefore seeks to prevent the potential abuse of government power as it relates to the buying and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines by fighting to allow the private sector to assist in this endeavour,” said AfriForum’s Ernst van Zyl.

Health department spokesperson Popo Maja said it would ensure compliance with procurement legislation and policies, including the broad based black economic empowerment.

“The measures to support black business are part of procurement legislation and policies, which we will follow in awarding contracts,” Maja told Sunday World.

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