For the record, I completely agree with Professor Glenda Gray and her colleagues’ frank appraisal of the damage caused by the continuation of the lockdown. This is a view shared widely in society for good reason.
Every objection to Gray’s comments – and there are many, the most strident coming from senior politicians and officials – has been to her speaking outside of the ministerial advisory committee, but there’s not a single cogent objection to the content of her utterances to be found.
When household data from resource-poor neighbourhoods reveal that malnourishment is rife as a result of the lockdown, it is patently absurd to aver that malnutrition does not exist and is not manifesting throughout the country.
All the benefits of the first three weeks are being steadily eroded each day we remain in this suspended animation. And it doesn’t help when the default response to any criticism is to attack the messenger.
Gray is president of the SA Medical Research Council, a world-renowned institution led by a world-renowned scientist.
She was a United Democratic Front (UDF) activist together with us in the front lines of the state of emergency in the 1980s; a comrade through and through in the best traditions of the Mass Democratic Movement – an alliance of the UDF and Cosatu – and our organisations, the SA Health Workers Congress and the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union, of which we were founding members.
In the democratic era she has been a dedicated public servant who had the courage to defy the most egregious Aids denialism.
In this she was in excellent company, with her comrades, her colleagues, the Treatment Action Campaign, Cosatu and many other progressive comrades and organisations all in support of providing antiretrovirals.
Her work at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital to stop mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the teeth of threats by Cabinet-level politicians and more sinister elements is the stuff of legend.
We are all now rewarded by seeing a whole generation of young people who were born to HIV-positive mothers but who are living without HIV and filling our schools, colleges, universities, workplaces and lives.
Gray was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe for her decades of service and for her commitment to fighting with us for a democratic South Africa.
There is simply no getting away from all this for those miffed by her actions.
To any reasonable observer, for Gray and her colleagues, among whom there are several who also count as comrades, to go public betrays serious frustration at a dysfunctional advisory body.
This happens to be fact, or else one would be at a loss to explain the proceedings of the committee that was hastily convened on Saturday night in the wake of the inflammatory media reports.
It turned out to be an inquisition of her and her colleagues by the chairperson and a coterie of accomplices.
It bordered on farce, if it were not so chilling, with gems such as: Did she agree with what she said? Which political parties did she consult before commenting? There is reason to doubt that this meeting was even legal, given the committee’s terms of reference.
The disgraceful slurs cast on her do not bear scrutiny; so vapid and self-serving are they.
When the former acting director-general’s parting shot is a foul and silly rant against her and others, we begin to understand why, on his and his fellow travellers’ watch for over 15 years, our once formidable public health service is in a state of decrepitude.
They should be in the dock, not her.
Dasoo is a medical practitioner and ANC veteran. This is a letter he wrote to fellow ANC veterans
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