OPPOSITION TO INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS BILL MOUNTS
The Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (Bill 6 of 2016) is facing strong head winds from traditional healers and some political parties, leading up to the Public Hearings which are expected to be held in Parliament early next year.
The Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology have been meeting various governmental stakeholders to discuss the bill over the last six months. The TNHA have attended a key meetings on the bill and have noted that there is still a lot of confusion about the bill, and even reservations about whether it is desirable to proceed with its adoption.
The Committee recently met with the Traditional Health Practitioners Interim Council in Pretoria, where the Council objected to the Bill based on the fact that they are the statutory body for the registration and accreditation of Traditional Healthy Practitioners. The Council see no need to have a separate body to accredit Indigenous Knowledge Practitioners, as this will be a duplication of efforts by government. They also believe that their Council are the true custodians to African Traditional Medicine Knowledge Systems, and that the Department of Science and Technology are not suited or equipped to take over their statutory functions laid out in the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act 22 of 2007).
The DA have raised concerns about the funding of pilot projects related to promoting and protection indigenous knowledge since 2004, noting that the Department of Science and Technology have spent in excess of R106 million on various projects and only created between 150 and 300 seasonal jobs. It is alleged that the Department of Trade and Industry have withdrawn their support for the Bill, citing that it conflicts with other legislation on protecting Intellectual Property Rights.
The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) have remained concerned about the lack of consolation with indigenous communities in the drafting of the Bill.
EFF SLAMS THE BILL
The most vigorous challenge to the Bill has come from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
EFF Commissar on Science and Technology, Nazier Paulson MP ripped into the Department of Science and Technology, accusing them of attempting to sell out African Traditional Medicine knowledge to big pharmaceutical companies and has proclaimed its provisions as the ‘Third Grand Theft from South Africans’ and ‘Evil’.
Below is a transcription of his statements to the Portfolio Committee and Department of Science and Technology on the 2nd of November.
” The Traditional Health Practitioners Act [Act 22 of 2007] was promulgated in 2007, more or less eight years ago.
The Department of Science and Technology has been allocated R300 million for this project to register Indigenous Knowledge Practitioners etc. How did the Department of Science and Technology get this R300 million when the real custodians of this knowledge [Traditional Health Practitioners Council] are financially orphaned, nor had any stake in these processes?
We are taking something from people and placing it in the hands of foreigners.
We are allowing our indigenous knowledge and indigenous medicine to be taken from us.
We taking something from people who make livelihoods from it [indigenous knowledge and medicines], and they get nothing in return. We are allowing huge multinationals to come again and steal from our people.
This is theft, and this Bill will legitimise theft!
African people are continuing to be robbed. They have been robbed of their land, their minerals and now their traditional medicines.
This Bill is Evil, I promise you that.
It must never see the light of day!
I never studied law. I only wrote maths and science. This law just legitimises this theft and I’m not going to let it happen.
Where was the consultation? Did we [government] consult with the people who will be affected by this evil Bill?
People will soon realise that this medicine that they have used for centuries, and from which they have made a livelihood from is no longer theirs. We will have to say “We sold it”. Sold it to whomever, GSK and whomever these people are who have never set foot on our shores.
We should shoot them on site. They are just here to steal. This is a money grabbing Bill.
This Bill creates a fertile battleground between traditional, ethnic and tribal communities, who will scrap over who owns what. Some will say “This is my buchu!”, and others will say, “No, this is my buchu!”. This is evil.
I’m worried about poor people once again being disempowered by unjust laws.
This is the third grand theft against our people.
First it was our land, then our minerals, and now it’s our indigenous knowledge and our indigenous medicines.
I have no dignity if I have no land. I have no value in my land if I have no access to it’s mineral wealth or the medicines that grow on it for my health.
I beseech all of you [Committee members], don’t do this to our people.
Don’t rob us … Again!
Don’t steal from us!
Don’t disempower us!
Eighty thousand or more traditional health practitioners will be affected by this Bill. Tell me how many people have you gone to and consulted with out of the eighty thousand? Don’t come and make laws here that not only affect the eighty thousand healers, but probably eight million people that that depend on them for their health.
What recognition have academia ever given traditional health practitioners?
Academia has been harvesting [biorprospecting] traditional medicine knowledge from our traditional health practitioners for decades and compiled large databases of indigenous medicinal knowledge. Universities are gathering information from these practitioners and keeping this knowledge under lock and key. We are not only pillaging our people’s medicine, but their knowledge as well.
We must protect against that as far as possible, and we reject this Bill.
Thank you very much Chair.”
The TNHA have raised various issues related to the Bill and will be presenting our arguments to have the Bill scrapped at the Public hearing on the Bill in the near year.
We are fortunate to be consulting with one of the world’s leading experts on Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Professor Bronwyn Parry. Bronwyn is a Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine and vice Dean of the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy at the King’s College in London. She has vast experience in the issues pertaining to the Bill. We hope to have her attend the Public hearings on behalf of the TNHA in the New Year.
CALL TO ACTION – We call on all traditional healers and traditional healers organisations to support the TNHA by attending the Public Hearing in the New Year. If you or your organization would like to attend, please email us so we can forward you that date and time of the meeting when it is officially announced.