Dear Mr Kirshen Naidoo
Re: Letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa

We write in response to your letter to the President dated 2 February 2021, which you
suggest was written on behalf of various citizens and organisations whom you do not
identify.
It appears that you sought to act without conducting a proper investigation into the vaccine
industry. Did you establish whether the delivery of vaccines was a donation or commercial
transaction from the Serum Institute of India or from the Indian government? If it indeed were
a donation it would have necessitated a word of gratitude from our Head of State to the
parties concerned.
By now you should be aware that the Serum Institute is a manufacturer of vaccines. In this
case it produced the vaccine under licence from AstraZeneca. It was public knowledge two
weeks ago that South Africa procured the AstraZeneca vaccine for R78 a dose and 1.5 million
vaccines were to be shipped directly to our country from the Serum Institute. The price paid
by South Africa is almost double the rate paid for the same drug in Europe. The delivery of
vaccines to South Africa from the Serum Institute is based on a commercial agreement
between the South African government and pharma company, AstraZeneca. Under such a
contractual arrangement there is no need to thank the Serum Institute or the Indian
government.
The President in his address to the nation on 1 February 2021 acknowledged the Serum
Institute as follows:
Earlier today the Deputy President, David Mabuza, Minister of Health Dr
Zwelini Mkhize, Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni and I received our
country’s first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines.The consignment,
consisting of one million doses of the Covishield vaccine produced by the
Serum Institute in India, arrived at OR Tambo International Airport this

afternoon. This vaccine was developed by the pharmaceutical company
AstraZeneca together with the University of Oxford. South Africa was one of
the countries where clinical trials were held to assess the drug’s efficacy. The
arrival of these vaccines contains the promise that we can turn the tide on
this disease that has caused so much devastation and hardship in our
country and across the world. As I said during my previous address, we are
sourcing our vaccines from a number of suppliers. In addition to the one
million Covishield doses that we received today we expect another 500,000
doses from the Serum Institute of India to arrive later in February.
The demand for an apology from the President is thus not only misplaced, but is regrettably
impertinent. This is so particularly in the midst of a pandemic when fidelity to true facts is so
important in the fight to overcome the pandemic and its devastating effects.
Your assertion that “India maintains strong ties with South Africa because of the fact that
people of Indian origin has made South Africa their home and not because our government is
considerate, grateful and diplomatic” is factually inaccurate and condescending. From the
time of Mahatma Gandhi, and later Prime Minister Nehru, India has championed the cause of
freedom and democracy in South Africa, recognising that apartheid was fundamentally wrong
and that it denied the majority of South Africans their human rights and freedoms. India
imposed sanctions against South Africa and provided the liberation movements with support

not because it has people of Indian descent living here but because it knew from its own anti-
colonial struggle that racism and national oppression of the majority in South Africa, including

Indian South Africans, was wrong and had be fought against and ended.
It’s historical and present day relations with the people of South Africa has always been with
South Africans as a nation, and not parochially motivated by the presence of people of
Indian-descent living in South Africa. Your suggestion to the contrary regrettably seeks to
separate South Africans of Indian-descent from the rest of South Africa – a notion that can
only be rejected with contempt.
The post- apartheid relationship between India and South Africa is a relationship of two
nations based on mutual respect and premised on shared global commonalities. This has
extended into partnerships in BRICs and elsewhere.
The views in your letter do not find any support in any views expressed by the Indian
Government, and your views most certainly do not reflect the warmth in the relations
between India and South Africa as independent nations. Nor, we might add has there been
any suggestion by India that even mildly suggests that South Africans of Indian descent
should see themselves separately from the rest of South Africa. Any attempt to create such
divisions is, to put it mildly, quite repugnant.
You go on to claim that “your clients are aware of the politics that prevail within our
government that influences your decisions which are mostly prejudicial and contrary to the

best interests of the people of South Africa”. What exactly does this mean? What is the
evidence for this in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic and the related vaccine acquisition
programme?
We would be urging the President to ignore your frivolous demand that he addresses the
nation to offer apologies to the Indian Government, the Serum Institute and the more than 1
billion Indians in India. Unless you can demonstrate that you represent the Indian
Government, the Serum Institute or the people of India, your arrogant request should be
treated with the contempt that it deserves.
Finally , as South Africans committed to the building of this nation as a unified nation we
reject any attempt at the creation of divisions – your letter can achieve no more than to
encourage divisions where none should exist

Neeshan Balton
Executive Director: Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
3 February 2021

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