The Witness: 2020-05-28


MSUNDUZ Municipality has committed to do I all it can to assist the Pietermaritzburg company Clifford Machines & Technology with getting its ventilators recognised as one of the tools for combatting Covid-19. Yesterday, senior officials of the City’s local economic department, Mthobisi Khumalo and Mandisa Gabuza, visited the company to see its uniquely African ventilator that has attracted attention from as far as the U.S.

Khumalo said they were tasked by Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla after seeing a recent article in The Witness on these crucial machines, which mechanically inflate a person’s lungs when their own body is unable to do so. “This visit is part of business development and understanding local businesses so we can enhance local employment and economic activities in our City. After this we will write a letter of support and also look into other political interventions that the mayor can undertake to support this venture so that Pietermaritzburg can be a producer of ventilators,” said Khumalo.

The company’s owner and director, Iain Ambler, told them about his frustration that despite the product’s benefits, it had not managed to attract the South African government to his factory floor. He demonstrated how the ventilator’s state-of-the-art technology works and how it could assist critically ill patients. “In this crisis an ICU bed obviously needs a proper ICU ventilator. This is what our company makes. There is also a small selection of other companies in South Africa capable of making proper ventilators, who have also been moving mountains over the last few months in preparation for doing so.” He said before they can start making ventilators for this country, they have to go through an additional governmental approval process that will take anywhere from between three and seven months with South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

“Obviously by then the horse will have bolted and government’s own projected figures [for Covid-19 infections] clearly show that.

“Governmental red tape and SAHPRA bureaucrats are not what should not be important here. Saving lives is what should be important, and everyone in government should be focused on that instead of preserving their own bureaucratic process. This is a time of crisis and leadership and action is required by government,” said Ambler. Khumalo said the City would be everything it can to assist Ambler because there is an anticipated demand for ventilators.

“At the moment there is a lot of uncertainty in terms of whether they should be producing the thousands that the country is going to need or wait until then, so that is why the intervention from our side is crucial and urgently needed,” said Khumalo.