Through you, Mr Chairman, allow me to address members of this House on this occasion as brothers and sisters, because when we approach a theme like this we must look upon one another only as brothers and sisters. Cancer knows no political differentiation, class differentiation, ethnic differentiation. And, as we approach a theme like this, we must recognise and appreciate how that which divides us as South Africans - and I am an adoptive South African - is so much smaller than all that which unites us as human beings; united in the tragedy of real life, united in the tragedy of being sick, united in the tragedy of feeling the brunt of a disease which has long been forgotten and ignored by this government, much more so than other governments.
Cancer has become the Cinderella priority of our health system and of our society, when, in fact, cancer is not just a health emergency. It is a societal emergency. We must train and educate our communities, our families, our workplaces to provide their contribution to the individual collective struggle of people against cancer.
We have developed in our society a very pernicious attitude which is, in itself, a cancer, and this is the attitude that cancer cannot be beaten. It's like the bad weather; the plagues. Those who are affected by cancer need to be isolated, and left alone to die, when, in fact, we need an individual response motivated by a collective and societal response, which proceeds from the fundamental awareness that cancer can be beaten first and foremost by the individual and in the collective psychology. So if there is one thing that this debate must do, it is to motivate, control and master the psychological energy for a renewal of attitudes, for a new solidarity which proceeds from the realisation that cancer is not only a physiological disease, but also turns into an emotional and psychological one which requires the support of all beyond any existing divide.
We must create the space for therapies to take place. The reality is that cancer is a pandemic which is bound to grow. We have no reliable figures in South Africa. The cancer registry has not been updated since 2005, and was faulty to begin with. Many cancer data are ascribed to the terminal aspect of death, whether it is renal failure, heart failure or an overdose of morphine.
We can guess that 800 000 people, perhaps a million people - a million South Africans, a million brothers and sisters - die from cancer every year. And that number is bound to increase. We cannot have a governmental response, a health response which is based exclusively on the trinity of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. People are dying of cancer, but they also die because they are not allowed to have equally effective treatments. Chemotherapy has been proven to be ineffective in 95% perhaps 97% of cases, in which it does not lengthen life expectancy and does not improve the quality of life. Think what you would do with your cellphone if it did not work 97% of the time. And this is all we are making available. There are other treatments, like mistletoe injections, ozone therapy, bicarbonate of sodium, Chinese artemisia annua, the cannabis oil - dagga - hyperthermic therapy, the Oxley therapy, the Ketogenic diet, silvestrol, nutritional supplements ranging from turmeric to fenugreek, alkalising diets, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, stem cell therapy and many others.
People are dying of cancer, but are also dying from a lack of therapies which we have made illegal. People are dying of bad policies, bad laws and lack of government attention. We are not going to have a national health system if we rely on chemotherapy alone for the very simple fact that there is not enough money in the budget to provide chemotherapy for all those to whom chemotherapy will be prescribed.
A great deal of public attention has been given to my call to legalise marijuana, which is part of the Bill I introduced. But it is small segment of what our government can do and what our government must do.
None of the treatments that I have mentioned is a silver bullet, but neither is anything else we have. We need to create centres where these treatments can be administered under controlled conditions, because they are now administered to thousands of people under conditions which are not controlled. Regarding home care, we are facing a situation of thousands of people self-medicating, because doctors cannot prescribe these treatments and cannot monitor their effectiveness.
The world is changing to new types of therapies, and for once we must be leaders and not followers. And, I hope, Mr Chairman, that this debate will open the policy space for making this happen. I understand that my time has expired, if I read the clock correctly. Thank you, Mr Chairman. [Applause.]