Minister Thoko Didiza failed to bolster OBP Board

Issued by Noko Masipa MP – DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
22 Oct 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Noko Masipa MP

The DA would like to express its disappointment in the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ms Thoko Didiza for failing to ensure that the new board of Onderstepoort Biological Product (OBP), that was recently announced, has enough animal disease and livestock industry experts. The OBP is a crucial state-owned entity (SOE) responsible for the development and production of vaccines that safeguard livestock health, thereby playing a vital role in food security and economic stability. An experienced board is essential to maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of these operations.

However, the absence of an experienced Board in animal health and vaccinology field is among many factors that have contributed to the OBP’s steady decline since 2007.

During the 6th term of Parliament, the livestock farmers have experienced several disease outbreaks such as African Horse Sickness, Foot and Mouth Disease, and Bluetongue due to the shortage of vaccines caused largely by equipment failure and lack of competency at the OBP to develop and produce vaccines in time.

The new board is offering little hope as it lacks a vaccinologist and only has one veterinary doctor, Dr Makuleni, with minimum practical experience, who during her first stint at OBP, left the institution prematurely.

Dr Makuleni was alleged to have been embroiled in financial irregularities during her time as CEO of the South African Weather Services (SAWS), and it is unclear whether she has been cleared of any wrongdoing for Minister Thoko Didiza and the cabinet to approve her appointment to the OBP board.

The OBP used to be internationally recognised in animal vaccine production, research, and development. The DA has written to Minister Thoko Didiza to determine whether Dr Makuleni has been cleared of any wrongdoing during her tenure as the SAWS CEO.

The DA will continue to conduct oversight of this institution to ensure that it delivers on its mandate.