Group of leading scientists come out in support of Glenda Gray who dared to criticise lockdown regulations

Professor Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council.
Professor Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council.
Image: GroundUp/South African Medical Research Council

A group of 48 leading scientists have come out in support of Professor Glenda Gray after a senior health official called for her to be investigated for daring to criticise the government's lockdown strategy.

Dr Anban Pillay, the acting director-general of the health department, requested that Gray's conduct be investigated, saying she had “made a number of false allegations against the government”, according to GroundUp.

On Saturday, the group of scientists, who include Wits vice-chancellor prof Adam Habib, prof Jantjie Taljaard of the University of Stellenbosch, prof Sean Wasserman of Groote Schuur hospital and prof Linda-Gail Bekker, director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, signed a statement of support for Gray and “the principle of academic freedom of speech”.

“As scientists, academics and policy experts, we are committed to being part of the complex policy response and debate on dealing with the epidemic of Sars-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19) in SA.

“We recognise that it is impossible to have perfected the response to the epidemic, but course correction should be rapid and not defensive. With that in mind, we condemn the specific threat made against prof Glenda Gray for expressing her opinion in public, which is totally out of step with the public pronouncements made by the President, welcoming criticism.

“We uphold the right to academic freedom of speech, and call on the South African government to engage openly with alternate views, and for all of us to urgently work towards constructive solutions regarding policy, in the interests of the country.”

This after Gray, who is the president of the SA Medical Research Council, took a public stand last Saturday against the government’s lockdown strategy, saying it should be ended and replaced with non-pharmaceutical interventions such as handwashing, wearing masks and social distancing.

Gray is a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), a group of scientists tasked with advising the government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an interview with News24, Gray said the MAC had not been consulted on any of the lockdown regulations and added that malnutrition cases were being seen at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital due to the strict lockdown regulations.

Sunday Times revealed the following day that she was not the only MAC member who had doubts about the regulations.

On Thursday, health minister Zweli Mkhize released a statement criticising Gray for her comments to the media. The acting director-general then asked that her conduct be investigated.

The statement was signed by:

  • Professor Cathi Albertyn, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Lucy Allais, Professor of Philosophy, University of the Witwatersrand,
  • Henry Alison chair of the History of Philosophy, UCS
  • Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, Director, Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, University of Cape Town
  • Dr Duanne Blaauw, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Keith Breckenridge, WISER, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Catherine Burns, Associate Professor of Medical History; Adler Museum of Medicine; Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Nithaya Chetty, Dean, Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Jason Cohen, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Dr Francesca Conradie, Clinical HIV Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Dr Aslam Dasoo, Progressive Health Forum
  • Ames Dhai, Professor of Bioethics, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor David Everatt, Wits School of Government, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Dr Dean Gopalan, President Critical Care Society of SA
  • Professor Adam Habib, Vice Chancellor, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Shireen Hassim, WISER, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Ian Jandrell, Dean, Faculty of Engineering the Built Environment, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Bavesh Kana, Personal Professor, Wits University
  • Professor Kathy Kahn, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Jonathan Klaaren, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Uma Kollamparambil, Head, School of Economics and Finance, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Naomi Levitt, Emeritus Professor of Endocrinolgy, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Gary Maartens, Head of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology and Director of the MRC Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Dr Moeketsi Mathe, private practice, lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Marc Mendelson, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases & HIV Medicine, University of Cape Town
  • Prof James McIntyre, School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Shaheen Mehtar, Emeritus Professor, Stellenbosch University
  • Professor Mike Morris, Economics, University of Cape Town
  • Dr Jeremy Nel, Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Ntobeko Ntusi, Head of Medicine, University of Cape Town
  • Dr Regina Osih, Senior Technical Expert, Aurum Institute
  • Prof Peter Raubenheimer Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Guy Richards, Emeritus Professor, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Dr Haroun Rhemtula, Head of Clinical Unit and Head of Obstetrics, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, CMJAH and University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Mark Sonderup, Division of Hepatology, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Jantjie Taljaard, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Stellenbosch
  • Professor Steven Tollman, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Prof Imraan Valodia, Dean, Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Alex Van Den Heever, Chair in the field of Social Security at the Wits School of Governance
  • Professor Martin Veller, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Francois Venter, Ezintsha, subdivision of Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Prof Zeblon Vilakazi, DVC Research, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Jimmy Volmink, Dean Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch university
  • Professor Sean Wasserman, Infectious Diseases. Groote Schuur Hospital, University of Cape Town
  • Prof Nicola Wearne, Division of Nephrology, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Robin Wood, Director, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town
  • Dr Adrienne Wulfsohn, Emergency and Disaster Medicine, KZN

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