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Ramaphosa hopes monkeypox stays away from SA

26 May 2022 - 18:02
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday met The Elders, a group of independent global leaders founded by former president Nelson Mandela, at Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria. Pictured with Ramaphosa are forestry, fisheries and environment minister Barbara Creecy, The Elders' deputy chair former first lady Graca Machel, Elders' chair Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundtland, the first woman prime minister of Norway.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday met The Elders, a group of independent global leaders founded by former president Nelson Mandela, at Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria. Pictured with Ramaphosa are forestry, fisheries and environment minister Barbara Creecy, The Elders' deputy chair former first lady Graca Machel, Elders' chair Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundtland, the first woman prime minister of Norway.
Image: GCIS.

While SA is willing and ready to help countries that have been hit by the monkeypox outbreak, President Cyril Ramaphosa says he prays it does not come to SA.

“I am not a medical soothsayer. I would hope that monkeypox does not come our way and we pray and hope for that. We will obviously want to be ready if it were ever to descend on SA so that we can continue, once again, to defend ourselves and make sure our health is safeguarded,” said Ramaphosa.

He made the remarks while speaking during a media briefing after meeting The Elders, a group of independent global leaders founded by former president Nelson Mandela in 2007, at Mahlamba Ndlopfu, Pretoria.

When asked about the risk of the outbreak — which is being investigated in Europe and North America — coming to SA, Ramaphosa said: “We pray that it does not come our way and we wish those countries well that are having to deal with monkeypox. We wish them strength and if we are called upon to give assistance, we will be ready and willing.”

During the briefing Ramaphosa was asked about statements he made to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday that he was concerned that vaccines manufactured locally were not being bought and nudged him to help ensure that Africa obtained a greater market share for its vaccines in developed countries.

Ramaphosa told the media that he, along with a number of heads of states, will be travelling to Malabo in Equatorial Guinea.

“Remember, when Covid-19 vaccines started being available, we were receiving them from manufacturers outside our continent because they had started developing the vaccines earlier.

“And they mass-produced them and they started being used by various locales in the world, including ourselves, and it started dawning on us that rather than relying on vaccines made elsewhere, we could also have the capacity.”

He pointed out that Africa already had a manufacturer, Aspen, which was producing vaccines. However, they were doing it under a contract rather than a licence that would allow them to manufacture the drug themselves.

“They have now acceded to manufacturing vaccines under a licence, where they will be able to manufacture vaccines from scratch. So already the rest of the continent is using vaccines that are made here in SA.

“We are saying, now that we have the capacity, we would like vaccines that are used for Africa, to be purchased on African soil, made in Africa, for Africans.”

Ramaphosa said he wants locally manufactured vaccines to be distributed around the world.

“It’s not a case of us wanting to continue being reliant on vaccines elsewhere. We are saying Covid-19, as much as it’s had a devastating effect on the world, it’s also given us a silver lining — capability to manufacture vaccines.”

He added that what underpinned his call was self-reliance on African vaccine capability, ability and distribution.

Chair of The Elders and first woman president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, added that there had been a shocking lack of equitable access to vaccines and that was the fault of the West.

“That pre-buying for the West. The Elders have been supporting SA and India wanting the TRIPS agreement to the WTO to be modified, we have been very admiring of the way Africa has been responding despite the lack of equitable access.

“The way the CDC has come up to a really good standard, the way that African leaders have been responding, has been really remarkable.”

Robinson said from The Elders’ perspective, “we are learning now with Covid-19, with what’s happening in China and what’s happening with blockages that countries need to be more self-reliant”.

During their press briefing The Elders discussed at length the war in Ukraine which is having a devastating impact on food and fuel prices globally.

Deputy chair of The Elders and former first lady Graca Machel said just as Africa was able to become self-reliant during the pandemic, it should do so in the face of soaring food prices.

“Africa is a food importer, this is an opportunity to say, let’s reduce importing food and invest much more on internal production. As Mary would say, we have the land and in some parts, water. What would impede us now from producing food for ourselves?”

The Elders expressed concern about climate change and the leadership crisis globally.

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