Democratic Alliance caught in vaccine ‘fake news’ scandal
The Department of Health issued a statement, on Monday evening, calling on the Democratic Alliance (DA) to apologise and retract false statements made about the National Treasury regarding vaccine acquisition.
This political squabble comes after the DA issued a statement last week, with the leading question: Was National Treasury the real culprit in vaccine delay?
Health ministry accuses Democratic Alliance of distorting facts
In its statement, Health spokesperson Popo Maja accused the DA of purposefully misrepresenting comments made by Dr Pillay in the Financial Mail regarding Treasury’s role in vaccine acquisition.
In the article, the department’s deputy director-general explained that securing doses in advance was an arbitrary process that wasn’t in line with the Public Finance Management Act.
Under this Act, the government only pays for goods once they have been received and any deviation from this system would be Treasury’s choice to make.
Besides, Dr Pillay said, at the time, “Treasury would have had to invest billions with nothing to show for it upfront.”
“The DA suggests in its statement that, from the above extracts, Pillay suggested that the National Treasury was the primary culprit in delaying vaccine acquisition,” the health ministry exclaimed.
DA’s shadow finance minister refuses to retract fake news
The DA’s shadow minister of finance Geordin Hill-Lewis quickly issued a response to the above, refusing to retract and apologise for misrepresenting facts.
Instead, Hill-Lewis accused the health ministry of trying to back-peddle and shift blame. The shadow minister pointed to a Financial Mail quote not included in Health’s statement, which read:
“A big challenge for SA’s efforts to secure the vaccine, in Pillay’s view, has been risk aversion in the Treasury.”
This, in Hill-Lewis’ perspective, was enough to draw the conclusion that Treasury had purposefully caused the delay in acquiring the vaccine.
“South Africa urgently needs the vaccine. That is where the DoH’s focus should be. They should not expect the DA to back down in fighting for vaccines for all South Africans,” Hill-Lewis said.