DA slams Military Command Council over Cuban COVID-19 drug


The “arrogant attitude” adopted by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), particularly its top decision-making body the Military Command Council (MCC), regarding acquisition of a Cuban drug was today (Friday, 29 January) slammed by the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The party, in the form of its shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais, wants Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to account for what appears to be the illegal procurement of Interferon Alpha-2B and its cost. The drug is apparently intended for use only by soldiers and others in the SANDF to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Marais said the MCC statement, issued after a scheduled ministerial briefing on acquisition of the drug earlier this week was cancelled, implied government’s military apparatus was “above oversight” and the MCC’s “authority to illegally approve procurement” of Interferon Alpha-2B contained inaccuracies in addition to being arrogant.

“The wording of the statement indicates the MCC is trying to trick South Africa into thinking procurement of the drug was at the behest of the SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) and that the service’s authority carries more weight than the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) which has not registered or regulated Interferon Alpha-2B for use in South Africa,” according to Marais’ statement.

“SAMHS previously made it clear not only did it not request procurement of Interferon Alpha-2B, it never sanctioned procurement and would not have done so had the possibility of procurement been raised. Why – because SAHPRA has not regulated it for use in South Africa. By its own admission, SAMHS is subject to SAHPRA regulation.

“It seems clear procurement was deliberately done in a crooked manner and the MCC is trying to squeeze out of a tight spot of its own creation.

“It’s also been clear for months neither the SANDF top brass nor the Minister will be accountable for taxpayers’  money wasted on importing a useless drug under the guise of protecting soldiers from COVID-19.

“Even if Interferon Alpha-2B should prove effective against COVID-19 – not yet proven in peer-reviewed scientific studies despite ludicrous claims by the MCC – the national defence force ruined nearly 40% of the stock due to incompetence in ensuring the cold-chain supply was adequately managed.

“Since the inception of this deception, the MCC stumbled from one bungling to another. And these are the people in charge of South Africa’s security! A frightening thought,” the forthright parliamentarian points out.

Marais has a message for Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“He must surely see there can be no other course of action. Minister Mapisa-Nqakula, SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke and the MMC must be fired. Not only are they incompetent, they have been caught in a multitude of lies over the past year alone and have not been held accountable once.”