The politics of national intellectual property policy design and the provision of health services in South Africa

The position that states take in the international sphere on health and intellectual property (IP) policy matters is influenced by their national experiences and positions. Similarly, the national arena is influenced by global health diplomacy. This paper seeks to examine how this iterative relationship has played out in South Africa in relation to patents, pharmaceuticals and access to medicines. It has been shown how the main African health diplomacy perspectives may be classified around the narratives of ‘unity and ubuntu’, ‘liberation ethic and demands of nationhood’ and ‘development aid or development policy’. This paper focuses on how these narratives have found expression in national discourse. In particular, it considers a recent interchange between the Minister of Health and a pharmaceutical company association in relation to their views on the draft National Intellectual Property (IP) Policy’s chapter on IP and public health, which commonly became known as "PharmaGate". The paper utilises discourse analysis methodology to consider this public discourse which was disseminated via radio stations and television, as well as print and digital media.