The South African Society of Obstreticians and Gynaecologists (SASOG) executive committee and council noted with disappointment the recent engagement between the Medical Research Council president, Professor Glenda Gray, and several government structures regarding the COVID-19 crisis and the South African response to it. We wish to express our support in principle for collaboration between academia and government, utmost mutual respect between professionals and the freedom to express one’s opinion without fear of humiliation or censure.
We believe that during these trying times, communication pathways should be open, so that our country can critically engage with all available information and gain from every informed and reasonable opinion.
Freedom of expression is even more essential when one tries to find the best way to handle a new challenge, and it is imperative that criticism is allowed and even welcomed. Indeed, the current challenge creates an opportunity for individuals and groups who are not usually socio-politically active, to become more involved and assist and respond where a need or a problem is identified.
SASOG welcomes the appointment of a scientific advisory body by the Health Minister and President, while acknowledging that the final decision-making body is the Parliament.
We believe that it is in the interest of our country that political leaders are informed and advised by our leading academics and trust that this process will be ongoing and transparent. During such interactions, robust debate about the issues at hand should be allowed, while respect for differences in opinion is paramount. All opinions and advice of members of the Ministerial Advisory Council cannot possibly be followed, and it must be a mammoth task to balance all opinions and interests before decisions are reached.
President Ramaphosa recently expressed his openness and gratitude for all the widely differing opinions and even criticisms. We appreciate this attitude and hope that national, provincial and local government structures can continue, welcoming all honest contributions with grace and openness rather than with an urge to control. Such sincerity will contribute to strengthen trust between political leaders and the nation.
SASOG sincerely hopes that the strained relations between the MRC, its president and staff, and national government structures can soon be repaired as an example of the collaboration that is so essential during this time.
Professor Greta Dreyer, SASOG president
Issued by Heidi Kruger