'No, no, eish!' - The truth about the Cape Town anti-vaxxer with a history of fudging the facts

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Kouthar Davids
Kouthar Davids
Screengrab/Al Jazeera
  • Seven months ago, Kouthar Davids documented her battle with Covid-19.
  • However, by Saturday, she made an about-turn, bizarrely saying she does not believe Covid-19 exists.
  • She supports the use of ivermectin for Covid-19 treatment, but will not elaborate on why it should be used for an illness that "doesn't exist".

In December 2020, Cape Town resident Kouthar Davids posted a video to say she was gravely ill with Covid-19.

In a moving video with laboured breathing, she detailed her frightening hospital stay, saying she had even drawn up her will.

"This is real, it kills," said an emotional Davids in her hospital gown, asking forgiveness for any wrongs in her life.

During the second wave of the pandemic in South Africa, hers was a story of hope when she was eventually discharged from hospital.

In an interview with Cape Town-based satellite TV service Brics Channel, she again elaborated on her hospital stay where she said she fought Covid-19 pneumonia.

She went as far as saying she managed to bring a smile to the faces of fellow patients by sharing her chocolate and expectorants, helping to bring some cheer during that harrowing time, as the youngest patient in the ward.

She told the host she felt it was her duty to warn people to take precautions against contracting the virus.

READ | Groote Schuur Hospital board condemns anti-vaxxers' 'disrespectful, demoralising' sentiments

In a follow-up video in January on one of her Facebook pages, she shared more on her Covid-19 journey.

This time, she described how she was still struggling with symptoms, but found that ivermectin helped.

Ivermectin is a medication intended for the treatment of an intestinal roundworm parasite, according to manufacturer Merck, which has stated that it has not found meaningful efficacy against Covid-19.

In South Africa, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) stands by its position that current clinical evidence supporting the benefit of ivermectin for managing Covid-19 infections is still not definitive.

"The compassionate use programme is still currently in place," Sahpra spokesperson Yuven Gounden told Health24 in July. This programme requires that a doctor ask Sahpra for permission to use it and that the doctor sends Sahpra feedback on its efficacy. Sahpra said there was no evidence yet that it was effective against Covid-19. On Wednesday, Gounden said their position had not changed.

READ | Sahpra stands by its ivermectin programme

However, as far back as January Davids did a video on it, and placed a syringe in her mouth, containing what she said was the medication that the US Food and Drug Administration also warned against for human use. She pressed the plunger dramatically to demonstrate how to use it. With no visible medical or pharmacist qualifications, she went on to describe recommended doses.

The ailing woman in the video was a far cry from the bubbly person interviewed for Mela on SABC on her love of vintage Mercedes-Benz models and her passion for helping her community as a lawyer.

It is not immediately clear at which university she got her degree, but she has also been feted for using her legal skills in helping people draw up their wills in her work for her charitable foundation, according to a news report.

In a lengthy post of gratitude in January on the Transformative Health Justice's Facebook page, Davids extolled the virtues of ivermectin, with a poster that read: "I took ivermectin and recovered from Covid", but failed to mention that she was treated in a private hospital for Covid-19. Hospitals ordinarily do not comment on whether a patient was admitted, but in the background of her video and her hospital selfie, hospital bed linen and branding could be seen.

She also quickly moved on to promote the medication, and in one post held a printed sign that resembled a number plate, promoting it, in a picture taken in a hotel lobby.

However, in spite of her fraught time battling Covid-19, and her difficult road to recovery, during a protest against Covid-19 vaccinations outside Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town on Saturday, she made the startling claim that the virus did not exist.

Davids was part of a group of people with posters that read "I am not a lab rat".

Some also set upon a doctor, demanding to see the sick patients.

Al Jazeera reporter Robyn Smith interviewed Davids and asked her why she did not believe in Covid-19, if she had it in December.

"Now I don't believe in it," said Davids.

On Monday, Smith posted the sound bite after being accused of quoting her out of context.

 

News24 was keen to get Davids' opinion on why she changed her mind about the existence of Covid-19, given her frightening experience in December.

When she did not immediately respond to calls and messages, News24 contacted Coco Safar, a café that she lists herself as a brand ambassador for, in the hopes of obtaining an alternate contact number for an interview.

"Kauthaur (sic) is not a brand ambassador for Coco Safar – in fact we don't work with brand ambassadors," said Coco Safar's public relations specialist Megan Gotkin.

"Until you brought this up with the store, we had no idea she listed herself as a brand ambassador and have since inboxed her to ask her to remove this."

Gotkin said on Monday night that Davids had indeed updated her profile and removed this association.

News24 tried the City of Cape Town, where she says she works (bearing in mind that Facebook profiles are sometimes out of date).

READ | Western Cape govt urges public to get vaccinated as anti-vaxxers protest at Groote Schuur Hospital

City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said tersely: "Kauthar (sic) Davids was employed as an Expanded Public Works Programme worker in the Community Services and Health Directorate. Her contract ended on 30 June 2018, thus, more than three years ago. As such, we do not have any further comment."

These programmes typically offer temporary work to help the unemployed relieve poverty.

Following questions to Davids to clarify these discrepancies, on Monday night, she has changed her profile, which now says she is a legal intern at the City of Cape Town.

She also claimed to be the vice chair of Ikamva Labantwana, an education support NGO.

Ikamva Labantwana spokesperson Siviwe Dlukwana said: "No, no, eish."

Dlukwana said she had volunteered her secretarial skills a few years ago, but was not, and had never been, their vice chair.

Davids also lists herself as a presenter with Radio 786.

Station manager Tashreeq Truebody said Davids is not a permanent employee but is an external service provider who does a shift once or twice a year.

He distanced the station from her comments on Covid-19.

"It is just not factual," he said.

He added that the protest group had also picketed briefly outside their office accusing them of being "pro-vaccine".

Davids finally replied to News24's request for comment or clarity with a simple: "No comment".


If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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