For immediate release
Johannesburg, 7 September 2021
SAVC indaba reaffirms commitment to a transformed and resilient veterinary industry
Transformation, inclusivity and expanding access to veterinary education and services were the focus of the South African Veterinary Council’s Annual Indaba, held on 3 September 2021, to chart a future course for the veterinary professions.
Some 300 people attended the hybrid physical and virtual event, which included robust discussions on how to improve the industry and a keynote address by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ms Thoko Didiza.
The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) is the regulatory body for South Africa’s veterinary professions, tasked with overseeing the conduct of those responsible for the health and well-being of all animals, from domestic pets to poultry and livestock. It also works to ensure the sustainability of the industry.
As Dr Fhumulani Rachel Munyai, who chairs the SAVC’s Heritage and Transformation of the Professions Committee, noted: “Caring for animals is not what we do; it’s who we are.”
The array of speakers echoed facilitator Buyani Zwane’s sentiment that those in South Africa’s veterinary and para-veterinary professions – including veterinarians, veterinary nurses, animal health technicians, laboratory animal technologists, veterinary physiotherapists and veterinary technologists – have to adapt to survive.
Referring to the need for food security in the agriculture sector, the Covid-19 pandemic that may have originated in animals, and animal health challenges such as rabies, Minister Didiza stressed that it is vital for South Africa to develop a “One Health” approach. Such a model would take into account the relationship between people, wildlife, livestock and domestic animals.
“We need to find answers to these questions and determine what we need to do,” she said.
She touched on inclusivity and whether the Department of Higher Education and Training should accredit more universities, other than the University of Pretoria to train veterinary surgeons (there are six institutions training the para-veterinary professions). This is in light of the national shortage of veterinarians and the lack of diversity among veterinarians in private practice.
Reflecting on the health of veterinary practice in South Africa, SAVC president Dr Tlotlo Kgasi said, “The long-term survival of any profession hinges on it remaining relevant and sensitive to the external social environment. Has our veterinary profession adapted to the new, changing needs of society? Have training institutions adapted to meet societal needs?”
Inroads have been made in promoting inclusivity, he said, applauding the appointment of a para-veterinary professional to the Council’s Executive Committee. Other speakers also echoed the importance of bridging the gap between veterinarians and para-veterinary professionals, with the latter often providing valuable services to rural communities.
However, Dr Kgasi said more work must be done to expose rural communities to the veterinary professions and to invest in practices in those areas. He said the soon-to-be-launched SAVC Transformation Awards will celebrate efforts to promote workplace diversity in the industry.
Speaking about transformation, SAVC Council member Dr John Adam highlighted veterinary education as the most pressing issue. “To me, our primary goal in this very important matter is equal education for all, from primary to tertiary level. There is no use expecting students to study veterinary science if their primary education is poor.”
“When it comes to the selection of veterinary candidates, there is too much emphasis on academic achievement … We need to recruit a diverse group of top-quality candidates to ensure different and novel approaches to the profession going forward.”
Professor Simon Nemutandani, President of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, said that in the South African context of advancing social change, transformation is not just about accommodating others, but also giving them access. “How do we decolonise our minds, attitudes and practices in a context where we need to be challenging ourselves?”
Dr Ziyanda Majokweni-Qwalela, President of the Black Veterinary Forum cited challenges such as a lack of mentoring, limited access to tertiary education for young people of colour, and the difficulties in retaining new graduates due to “untenable” working conditions. “Even though there is an increasing number of students, including black students, we need to develop the pipeline so they go on to graduate and specialise.”
Several veterinary academics spoke about the financial and academic barriers faced by students in accessing tertiary education, and high unemployment levels among veterinary technicians. The Indaba also reflected on how the veterinary professions could remain relevant in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era.
The chief veterinary officer at the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Dr Bothle Modisane, highlighted the need for regional integration of veterinary statutory boards to share best practice and build capacity in the Southern African Development Community.
Despite many challenges still faced by the professions, progress has been made, the Indaba heard. Said Dr Adam, “We need to take a proactive approach to managing change and take our future into our own hands. Our industry needs to become more representative, from top management down … and we must be open-minded about transformation and inclusivity.”
Dr Kgasi added, “We have to be agile and responsive, and not just talk, but be action-oriented and innovative. Transformation is about innovation. It’s a business imperative. We need to join hands to provide quality, relevant and accessible veterinary services, finding solutions that ultimately benefit the people of the country.”
About the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC)
The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) is a Veterinary Statutory Body in South Africa, with powers and functions for the registration of persons practising the veterinary and para-veterinary professions. The SAVC has legal authority over the practising of veterinary and para-veterinary professions, and for matters connected therewith.
The South African Veterinary Board, which is the predecessor of the SAVC, was established in 1933 in terms of the Veterinary Act 1933 (Act No. 16 of 1933). The SAVC then later became an independent, self-funding statutory body in 1982 under the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Act 1982 (Act No.19 of 1982). The current SAVC, therefore, has a proud and rich history of playing a role in the regulation of the veterinary profession in South Africa.
It is compulsory in South Africa for all practising veterinary and para-veterinary professionals to be registered with the SAVC as stated in the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Act, Act 19 of 1982. The SAVC is therefore the custodian of the veterinary and para-veterinary professions in South Africa and enables the veterinary team to practise ethically, by setting and monitoring veterinary standards, to create a safe environment for animals and people.
Issued by Flow Communications on behalf of the SAVC. For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Khaya Thwala on email@example.com or 078 349 0668.