Public bodies performing administration functions such as the SA Pharmacy Council must give rational reasons for their decisions and have a factual basis for making the decision. Even a body with statutory powers to generally “do all such things as the Council deems necessary or expedient to achieve the objects of this Act” does not give it carte blanche. Its discretion is fettered by the obligation to exercise its administrative powers lawfully.

In Medirite (Pty) Limited v South African Pharmacy Council the SA Pharmacy Council amended the clause relating to ‘good pharmacy practice’ by insisting that pharmacies within other business premises erect a wall from floor to ceiling to demarcate and restrict access to the pharmacy’s premises. Although regulated professions must expect their regulations to change from time to time, that is no reason for making changes that are likely to have substantial adverse effects on those regulated without any rational reasons for doing so.

The amended rules were set aside because they had an unnecessarily onerous impact on the affected pharmacies and the means employed were excessive and disproportionate to achieve the objective of a clear demarcation between the pharmacy and the host business.

This is a good lesson for all regulators, including government regulators that make regulations affecting business.