The Black Farmers Association of South Africa (BFASA) is to march on the South African Health Regulatory Authorities (SAHPRA) Pretoria offices today (22 April 1021) in protest against what it calls a ‘racist’ licensing policy.
BFASA says it has obtained the necessary permits and has called for thousands of to support its cause. In a statement BFASA has made a personal attack on SAHPRA chairperson Helen Rees saying she renaged on promises made last year to adjust the licensing regime to include black farmers.
It has called for SAHPRA to be totally shut down today
“We (BFASA) still pursuing the promise that was made by Prof Rees in the virtual meeting held on the 28 October 2020, where she promised that she will give us pre-licences, this is on record and members of Parliament were present in that meeting.”
But the person who it holds accountable is Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who the organization has accused of pandering to foreign multinational interests at the expense of indigenous South Africans, and says f he can’t resolve the situation, his head must roll.
“SAHPRA has stated publicly that their actions in using the Apartheid era act of 1965 to allow them to issue licenses to whites only and foreigners, to the deliberate exclusion of the indigenous population, are at the specific instructions of the Minister of Health. SAHPRA’s board mentions on record, that Dr. Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health is to blame for the monopolization of the Cannabis Industry because it is him who grants the licenses to the white owned companies and if that is the truth then Dr. Zweli Mkhize must step down”
Times Media reports that SAHPRA denied these claims on 20 April 2021, saying it treated “all applicants equally and with respect”.
BFASA’s issue points directly at the Medicines and Related Substances Act (Act No 101 of 1965) which gives SAHPRA the power to regulate all health products in the country.
BFSA said while the act did not prescribe to SAHPRA who they were permitted to grant licences to, the organisation had “noticed” these licences being given to “white international companies”.
“SAHPRA has stated publicly that their actions in using the apartheid-era act of 1965 to allow them to issue licences to whites only and foreigners, to the deliberate exclusion of the indigenous population, are at the specific instructions of the minister of health.
SAHPRA’s board mentions on record that Dr Zweli Mkhize is to blame for the monopolisation of the cannabis industry because it is he who grants the licences to the white-owned companies and if that is the truth then Dr Zweli Mkhize must step down,” said the BFASA.
SAHPRA said these claims were unfounded. The minister is not involved in any way with SAHPRA operational processes such as the issuance of licences and neither has he issued such a restrictive directive. SAHPRA denies this flawed allegation unequivocally,” the regulator said in a statement on 20 April 2021.
SAHPRA said current legislation did not permit them to issue licences for the cultivation of cannabis for non-medicinal commercial purposes including for use in food.
“The process to obtain a licence from SAHPRA to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes is a rigorous one. There needs to be standardisation of the cannabis cultivars and assurance that crops can be grown under conditions of strict security.”
SAHPRA said the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes “requires strict control” as SA was a signatory to international treaties that prohibit the production and supply of narcotic and psychotropic drugs, including the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961.
“There is a strict process and strict protocols involved and the relevant personnel and committees are tasked with this procedure.”
BFASA charged that their protest was in pursuit of a “promise” made by SAHPRA board chairperson Prof Helen Rees, who had in a previous virtual meeting said BFASA would be given pre-licences.
“This is on record and MPs were present in that meeting,” said the associationasa called
BFASA wants SAHPRA shut down: “We are still making a call that all issued illegitimate licences must be revoked, because [they] were issued against our constitution & BEE policy. Sahpra is a constitutional delinquent when it comes to issuing of these licences; therefore, they need to shut down.”
SAHPRA said it was “concerned” about the inaccuracies of such narratives by BFASA because they confused the public in what was a complex legal and policy matter.
“Accurate reporting is essential to allow the public to participate constructively and meaningfully in this debate. Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture, land reform and rural development together with other departments and entities, are in the process of developing the Cannabis Master Plan which will provide a road map for the cannabis industry.”
Additional reporting by TimesLIVE