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Health dept boss calls for investigation into Glenda Gray

Dr. Anban Pillay's letter states that allegations Dr Glenda Gray has recently made in the media 'are damaging to government’s response to COVID-19'.

FILE: Dr Glenda Gray. Picture: samrc.co.za

JOHANNESBURG - Dr. Anban Pillay, the acting director-general of the Department of Health, has requested an investigation into the conduct of Dr. Glenda Gray, the president of the Medical Research Council (MRC), claiming that she had “made a number of false allegations against government”.

These concerns were described in a letter dated 21 May written by Pillay, addressed to Professor Johnny Mahlangu, chairperson of the MRC.

The letter states that allegations Gray has recently made in the media “are damaging to government’s response to COVID-19”.

This comes after an interview with News24 in which Gray is quoted criticising the government’s lockdown approach as “unscientific”. Gray is quoted saying that it seemed as if government was “sucking regulations out of their thumb and implementing rubbish”.

“These media statements cause confusion … and are likely to erode public support for behaviour change” the letter reads.

Pillay also states that he has received calls about Gray’s conduct as president of the MRC on matters other than her statements to the media.

“I therefore recommend that the board investigates the conduct [of Gray] on this matter given the harm it has caused to South Africa’s COVID-19 response,” wrote Pillay.

Lwazi Manzi, spokesperson for the Department of Health, did not respond to queries or answer calls by the time of publication. Neither Mahlangu nor Gray wished to comment.

Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, a leading medical researcher based at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, has come out in support of Gray, describing her as a “national treasure”.

She said Gray had raised important issues for the “common good” and in the “best interest of the country”. The response should not be a witch-hunt but a discussion so that the government, including the Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, can find the best way to respond to the epidemic. She emphasised that scientists must have the freedom to speak their minds.

This article first appeared on GroundUp.