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Priority is your vote, but not your health

THE manifesto period has already begun. The ANC kicked it off on Jan- uary 8 with their manifesto launch.

They spoke about all the improve- ments they’ve brought since the advent of democracy 25 years ago, and provided an extensive list of “if-we- win” promises.

Next up was the EFF on February 2, again with grand declarations of what they will do post-elections if they win. And the DA took to the stage to launch theirs on February 23. Even Patricia De Lille’s new kid on the block, Good, took a seat at the table to engage ordi- nary citizens, as did the UDM.

Their manifestos have all been peppered with promises – and key in these long lists were how they would improve health care in South Africa. The ANC, for example, has promised to take immediate steps to improve the state of hospitals and clinics, to imple- ment the National Health Insurance and to improve their test and treat- ment services for both HIV and TB.

Aa we edge towards South Africa’s sixth national general elections, we are likely to have more promises made by political parties.

Citizens will be centre stage as par- ties engage with issues and challenges that people face daily on the ground.

As this all plays out, the National Council Against Smoking has been eager to understand how important an issue South Africa’s political parties think tobacco control is. We created an online survey to ask eight of the country’s most popular political parties to gauge how much they supported the Draft Tobacco Control Bill, set to go before the new Parliament later this year.

The Draft Tobacco Control Bill was tabled by Health Minister Aaron Mot- soaledi for public comment in May last year. Now that submissions are being reviewed, the bill is expected to come before Parliament for further deliberation.

A month after receiving the survey, only two of the eight parties responded: newcomers Good and the ACDP

Although the bill is yet to officially come before Parliament, the fact that the bill has been in the public domain for the past 10 months – with the tobacco industry actively lobbying against it – means many people know about the bill and the changes that it will bring to South Africa.

The bill will introduce several new policies: 100% smoke-free indoor pub- lic places, the regulation of e-cigarettes, the removal of tobacco marketing and adverts at till points, the plain pack- aging of cigarettes and the ban of sale of cigarettes from vending machines.

We sent our survey to the ANC, the DA, the EFF, the IFP, the United Demo- cratic Movement, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Azanian People’s Organisation and political newcomers, Good. They were asked about the bill in general as well as each of the five key elements of the bill.

Our survey results were dismal.

A month after receiving the survey, and receiving several follow-up calls and reminders, only two of the eight parties responded: newcomers Good and the ACDP. Their responses show they are serious about the health of the citizens they wish to serve.

This shows that when it comes to tobacco control, South Africa’s political parties don’t prioritise the health of the citizens they want votes from.

* Kalideen is executive director of the National Council Against Smoking

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.

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