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Dr Zweli Mkhize lambasts one of his advisors for 'unprofessional and unbecoming conduct'

Health minister Zweli Mkhize
Health minister Zweli Mkhize
Image: Trevor Samson

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has come out guns blazing slamming allegations by a member of his ministerial advisory committee that government’s decisions on the lockdown were not based on scientific proof.

Professor Glenda Gray, CEO of the SA medical research council who sits on a committee [MAC] advising Mkhize on coronavirus, told News24 that lockdown should be lifted altogether as its continuation was merely the government thumb sucking regulations and implanting rubbish.

Gray further said that the lockdown was punishing South Africans and that for the first time they were seeing children with malnutrition at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital for the first time in decades.

Mkhize went over all the allegations refuting all of them. He said Gray was lying and that although they welcomed differing views, hers brought the department of health into disrepute.

“The comment that government thumb sucks its decision not only undermines the joint work and effort that the NCCC, cabinet and government as a whole has been engaged in,” Mkhize said on Wednesday evening in a strongly worded statement.

“But it is also unprofessional and unbecoming conduct from a member of the MAC who has direct access to the Ministry and the Department. In my view it undermines and brings into disrepute the institution that Prof. Gray works for which is an entity of the Department of Health, the MRC.”

He said that Gray lied about malnutrition cases at the Chris Baragwanath hospital.

According to Mkhize, there has actually been a huge decrease in such cases at the hospitals when compared to four years ago.

“To illustrate this, in April 2019 there were 2885 patients seen and 500 admissions. However, in April 2020 there were 834 patients seen and 146 admissions. I have been advised by the Department’s officials that at a subsequent COVID-19 MAC meeting, Prof Velaphi, the Head of Paediatrics at the hospital, raised this concern and asked why Prof Gray would mislead the public by giving inaccurate information.

In response, Prof Gray merely stated that she had relied on what she had heard from ‘other colleagues’. However, these colleagues were not disclosed,” Mkhize explained.

He also refuted her claim that the government had rejected advise from scientists on the lifting of the lockdown which she said punished children and kicked them out of school.

Mkhize said they had received 50 advisories from the committee which were all accepted.“Divergent views by scientists are healthy and welcome. The MAC provides this platform for robust engagement of these top scientists who are leaders of various respectable institutions and organisations.

“However I must urge all those who are contributing to the thought process and science behind the decisions ultimately undertaken by Government to desist from potentially destructive behaviour and continue to engage constructively with Government as they are mandated,” Mkhize said.

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