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SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
12 September 2006
INSTITUTIONALIZATION AND OPERATIONALIZATION OF TRADITIONAL MEDICINE: BRIEFING BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH and WORKSHOP ON CHILDREN’S BILL [B19-2006]: PLANNING AND WAY FORWARD: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. ADOPTION OF COMMITTEE REPORTS
Chairperson: Ms J Masilo (ANC, North West)
Documents handed out:
Draft Report on the oversight visit of the Select Committee on Social Services to the Western Cape Province on 31 July – 04 August 2006
Draft Fourth Term Programme- 2006
Speaking Notes: Institutionalization of Traditional Medicines
The proposal to the NCOP Select Committee on Social Services on taking the Children’s Amendment Bill forward from the NCOP to Provincial Legislatures
Draft Programme on the workshop on the Children’s Amendment Bill and Final Costing Report
The Department of Health briefed the Committee on the process of incorporating traditional medicine and practices into the formal health care system. Government had the responsibility to ensure that African traditional medicines were safe and of an acceptable quality. Innovation and knowledge resting with traditional practitioners had to be harnessed and further developed for the benefit of the public. The process of institutionalisation involved six main processes, which included legislative protection, education and training, need for recognition of practitioners and sufficient support in the production processes. A Presidential Task Team would advise on an appropriate regulatory and legal framework for the institutionalisation of Traditional Medicine. The Medicines Control Council (MCC) had established a Committee to evaluate traditional medicines, with a view to facilitating their registration. An clinical trials committee was also established. Questions raised by members related to the regulation of the diversity of traditional medicine, and the expected time frames, the reasons for the constitutional court challenge to the Traditioanal Health Practitioners Act, the problem of secrecy, the impact of colonialism on traditional medicines and practices, and the future registration of practitioners.
The Department of Social Services outlined the planned programme and aims of the proposed workshop on the Children’s Bill. The workshops were intended to assist members of Select and Portfolio Committees, as well as provincial legislatures, to better understand the content, nature and scope of the Bill. Areas of monitoring and evaluation on provincial and local government levels would also be identified, to ensure that the Committee’s oversight role was strengthened. Members raised queries on the time lines, translation of the Bill, the venue for the workshop and the inclusion of the Joint Committee on Children, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.
The Committee adopted the draft report on its Oversight Visit to the Western Cape, the Minutes of the previous meeting and the draft programme for the fourth term.
Institutionalisation of the Use of Traditional Medicine: Briefing by Department of Health
Ronnie Green–Thompson (Advisor to the Department of Health) briefed the
Committee on the Department of Health (DoH) plans to institutionalise the use
of traditional medicines in South Africa. Government had the responsibility to
ensure that African traditional medicines were safe and of an acceptable
quality. Innovation and knowledge resting with traditional practitioners had to
be harnessed and further developed for the benefit of the public.
The Department had recently held a conference in Benoni to discuss the process of institutionalisation with the relevant stakeholders. Six main themes were identified, which included the need for appropriate legislation to protect indigenous knowledge, education and training of traditional practitioners, the need for mutual recognition and respect for African traditional practitioners and sufficient support for the production of traditional medicines.
A Presidential Task Team would advise on an appropriate regulatory and legal framework for the institutionalisation of Traditional Medicine. This would include the identification of possible models for the protection of traditional medicine. It would also review current research methodology with regard to traditional medication and would review the steps to codify and preserve such knowledge. It would promote the development of a pharmacopoeia.
The Medicines Control Council (MCC) had established the African Traditional Medicines Committee to evaluate traditional medicines, with a view to facilitating their registration. An African medicine clinical trials committee was also established to develop guidelines for managing the clinical trials. A ministerial task team would investigate the functioning of these bodies with a view to improve their efficiency and relevance.
Ms N Madladla- Magubane (ANC, Gauteng) asked how the Department envisaged regulating the diversity of traditional medicine.
Prof Green–Thompson responded that the Department in South Africa, like its Chinese and Indian counterparts, would formally classify all sources and types of traditional medicines and practices. He acknowledged that the identification and classification of the best from different cultures would be a challenge. Guidelines for this process had also been discussed at the recently held conference in Benoni.
Mr B Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga) acknowledged that the institutionalisation of traditional medicines would take time. He asked how long this process took in countries such as China and Philippines.
Prof Green–Thompson could not provide a specific timeline for the similar processes in these countries. He agreed that the institutionalisation of traditional medicine would be challenging and could only be realized over time. He reaffirmed the Department’s commitment to ensure that traditional medicines were recognized as part of the country’s health care system. The Committee, through its constituency work, could ensure that communities were made aware of this process.
Mr Tolo asked on what grounds the Constitutional Court had withdrawn the Traditional Health Practitioners legislation..
Mr M A Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) commented that the Court had expressed reservations regarding the process of developing the legislation, rather than on its content. Parliament would work hard to this reinstate this legislation as soon as possible.
Mr Tolo cautioned the Department on the difficulties in creating awareness about the use of African traditional Medicine and practices. These practices were based on secrecy. He wondered whether healers would agree to provide the relevant information.
Prof Green–Thompson responded that the Presidential Task Team on Traditional Medicine and Practices would tackle the problem of secrecy. He suggested that the protection of intellectual property rights would encourage the disclosure of relevant information.
Mr J O Thlagale (UCDP, North West) commented that the origins of this secrecy lay in the impact missionaries had on traditional ways of life. He said that traditional medicines and practices had systematically been discredited. Traditional medicines had to be demystified.
Prof Green–Thompson acknowledged the impact colonialism had on the perceptions about African traditional medicine and practices. He expressed the Department’s commitment to ensure that such practices were de-stigmatised.
Ms A N Qikani (UDM, Eastern Cape) asked whether traditional healers would adhere to similar classifications as those developed by the South African Nurses Council (SANC).
The Chairperson wondered how the Abathandazeli (faith healers) would be formally classified as a profession.
Prof Green–Thompson answered that the Traditional Healer’s Council would develop a system of classification similar to that of the SANC. The Department would neither prescribe nor pre-empt this classification. It could only provide the Council with recommendations
Mr Tolo asked what the Department’s stance was on the use and effectiveness of the much-publicized “Ubejane” medicine as an immune system booster.
Prof Green–Thompson acknowledged the speculation around the medicinal value of ‘certain traditional medicine’ in the Limpopo Province. He believed that the focus should be on promoting all traditional remedies, rather than particular ones. The Department would develop appropriate structures to formally research the health benefits of traditional medicines.
The Chairperson suggested that the Department could host another workshop on this process of institutionalisation, and thanked the presenter.
Workshop on the Children’s Bill: Programme and Aims: Briefing by Department of Social Services
Dr Maria Mabetoa (Chief Director:Children’s Rights, Department of Social Development (DSD)) outlined the programme and aims of the planned workshop on the Children’s Bill. She reported that the workshop would assist members of the NCOP as well as provincial legislatures to better understand the content, nature and scope of the Bill. Provincial legislatures would subsequently host more effective public hearings. Areas of monitoring and evaluation on provincial and local government levels would also be identified, to ensure that the Committee’s oversight role was strengthened.
DSD recommended that the Committee (after consultation with provincial counterparts) identify two working days on which the orientation discussion on the Children’s Billt and its relation to the Children’s Act could be introduced. The Department would also submit the costing report on the Children’s Bill.
The Chairperson requested the Department to provide Members with the costing reports prior to the workshop.
Mr Sulliman suggested that members of the provincial legislatures be invited to the workshop. It would then not be necessary for the Committee to brief the respective provincial legislatures.
The Chairperson responded that the Committee and the NCOP had to decide whether to invite provinces. Members had the responsibility to brief provincial legislatures.
Mr Tolo wondered when the Department expected the Bill to be passed by Parliament.
Mr Sulliman commented that the passing of the Bill could take longer than the proposed six weeks. He expressed concern that some provinces may take longer than others to both work through the Bill and to complete public hearings. He said that provinces had to be provided with sufficient time lines to complete and conduct public hearings.
Ms Lana Petersen, Parliamentary Liaison Officer for the department of Social Development, said that the Department was aware of the differing capacity of provinces to work through the Bill. However, the six-week period was a sufficient time frame for provinces to start an initial engagement with the legislation. She emphasized that DSD considered the Bill a priority due to the seriousness of the issues it sought to address. She stressed that DSD would honour all procedures and obligations prior to the passing of the Bill. The Bill should be regarded as a legislative priority.
Mr Sulliman commented that the Public Finance Management Act required the completion of costing reports prior to the Bill’s introduction in Parliament. Similarly, an Act had to be translated into at least one other official language before it could be passed.
Mr M Thetjeng (DA, Limpopo ) asked whether the draft legislation had been translated into other official languages, besides isiZulu. He also asked what criteria were used in choosing this language.
Dr Mabetoa responded that the Bill would be translated into other official languages at a later stage.
Ms Petersen added that the translation of the Bill would be completed at the end of September. The translation of the Bill would enhance public participation and understanding of the legislation.
Ms Madladla- Magubane and Mr Tolo raised concern about the size of the venue for the workshop. The Chairperson requested members’ suggestions for the venue.
Mr Thetjeng said that this was a logistical issue that could be addressed after the meeting.
Dr Mabetoa said that the proposed workshop was merely a means to ensure that both Select and Portfolio Committees, together with their provincial counterparts, were familiar with the debates and issues around the Bill. The relevant departments as well as the Presidency would be invited. A preliminary list of all those invited would be drawn up and circulated to members.
Ms F Mazibuko (ANC, Gauteng) requested that the Joint Monitoring Committee on Children, Youth and Persons with Disabilities also be invited to participate in the workshop. This committee was often not invited to such events.
Ms Petersen answered that the Joint Committee’s participation would be welcomed.
The draft Report on the oversight visit of the Select Committee on Social Services to the Western Cape Province from 31 July to 04 August 2006 was tabled. Some minor changes were suggested and agreed to. The report was formally adopted and it was noted that this report would now be debated in the NCOP.
The minutes of the previous meeting were adopted.
The draft programme for the fourth term was also adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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