Constitutional Court 2, Manto 0
Well, our ministers are at it again, making proclamations of policy that bear no resemblance to anything even close to reality. Here are some examples of recent attempts by various departments to impose ridiculous rulings:
Case No 1: Department of Health, under Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, declares that no pharmacy may add more than a 26% dispensing fee to any one product.
Theory: that forcing pharmacies to charge less will make medicines more available at cheaper rates to the poor.
Reality: Maximum dispensing fee is so low, and not taking into account expenses such as rent, salaries and wages, that pharmacies almost immediately begin to go out of business. Those that remain in business largely do so by retrenching employees. The areas most largely hit? The small, rural pharmacies and the pharmacies in poor areas. Jobs lost, businesses in ruins, poor people having to travel even further to find medicine.
Conclusion: after the pharmacists took Manto to court and won, and she appealed and lost, she still hasn’t realised that her policy is doing exactly the opposite to what it was meant to do. The health department has been ordered by the Constitutional Court to review the policy. In the meantime, pharmacists may charge whatever they like, in keeping with the free market economy we like to pretend we have.
Case No 2: Department of Transport declares that by 2008, motorists travelling on their own during rush hour will be fined.
Theory: that motorists should be encouraged to use car pools and public transport to reduce congestion.
Reality: the public transport system is currently dangerous to the point of fatal. Minibus taxis and buses are among to biggest sources of road death. Trains are plagued by muggings, stabbings and rape. The transport network does not even reach to all parts of any city or its surrounds. The argument that for places that are not serviced by public transport, carpools should be used, is ridiculous. What if the person you carpool with is ill, or on vacation?
Conclusion: The Kwa-Zulu Natal Provincial Department of Transport has already said there is no way they can increase the public transport infrastructure to support such a move by 2008.
And these are just the bumblings that have been in the news again recently. Let’s not go into the fracas around the new gun laws that have seen the majority of gunshop owners in the country lose their business and livelihood, with no reduction in gun crime. Or the compulsory year’s public service at almost no pay for newly qualified doctors (that can see you being sent far from family and friends to areas with no health care equipment and where no one speaks the same language as you) that is largely the cause of over 50% of our new MDs leaving the country and seeking work elsewhere. Or the new education standards that, in an effort to bring everyone to the same level, drop the standard down to the lowest common denominator. Well done, departments of Safety and Security, Health (again!), and Education.
The sad thing is, no matter how badly they fuck up, their party will still win next election, because they are at least smart enough to know that keeping the voting populace stupid is in their best interest. And all that will happen is they will shuffle everyone around again. Manto will become minister of transport (and tell us we can power our cars with african potatos and this is an alternative to petrol and we need all the options). Winnie Mandela will be made minister of science fiction and fantasy (‘i was not there at the time, your honour, and i do not recall the incident in any case’). Zuma can be made minister of finance (at least he will skim so much off the top there will be none left to throw away down the black hole that is zimbabwe). And the president can be replaced with a cardboard cutout and we wouldn’t know the difference.