Here's how the clash between doctors Zweli Mkhize and Glenda Gray unfolded

22 May 2020 - 11:00 By Unathi Nkanjeni
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize took exception to comments from Dr Glenda Gray criticising the government's handling of the lockdown.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize took exception to comments from Dr Glenda Gray criticising the government's handling of the lockdown.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sowetan

The public difference of opinion between health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Dr Glenda Gray has divided many.

Gray's public comments about the government’s decisions relating to the Covid-19 lockdown resulted in Mkhize lambasting her, with many others joining the fray.

Here is a wrap of what happened.

No science behind lockdown 

Last week, Gray, who was appointed by Mkhize as a member of the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) on Covid-19, expressed opposing views to the government regarding how the virus was being tackled in SA.

According to a News24 report, Gray weighed in on the extension of the lockdown for health benefits and to slow the spread of Covid-19. Gray was quoted as saying the lockdown “is not based in science and is completely unmeasured”. 

“It is almost as if someone is sucking regulations out of their thumb and implementing rubbish, quite frankly," she said.

“In the face of a young population, we refuse to let people out. We make them exercise for three hours a day and then complain there's congestion in this time. We punish children and kick them out of school and we deny them education. For what? Where is the scientific evidence for that?”

No benefits 

Earlier this week, in an interview on 702, Gray lambasted the regulations regarding winter clothes that were initially put in place and later changed.

“E-commerce doesn't cause Covid-19, and making people exercise from 6am to 9am causes congestion. There were compelling reasons for the lockdown, but there comes a time when the value of the lockdown becomes negligible and we are at that stage of the pandemic,” she said.

Gray also argued that children should be allowed to go out.

“Let the children out. They won’t be adversely affected. Protect the vulnerable and keep them safe, and let us go out and do what we do. We have reached a point of no longer having additional benefits of keeping the lockdown.”

Rebuking claims

In a statement on Wednesday, Mkhize rebuked Gray's claims, saying she made “factually incorrect and unfounded statements”.

“I have been taken aback by the obvious inaccuracies [the claims] contain which have, in my view, caused unnecessary sensationalism and doubt about the work and effort of the government in dealing with Covid-19,” said Mkhize.

“We will keep emphasising this. As government we do not claim to have it all figured out when it comes to Covid-19. No country does. The president has constantly and correctly stated we are in unchartered waters. We are committed to doing everything in our powers to protect the lives of our citizens.”

Science claims

Mkhize said there were existing structures in government that have taken into account various factors, including scientific and socio-economic factors.

“The comment that government thumb sucks its decisions not only undermines the joint work and effort that the national coronavirus command council, cabinet and government as a whole has been engaged in, but it is also unprofessional and unbecoming conduct from a member of the MAC who has direct access to the ministry and the department," Mkhize said. 

“In my view it undermines and brings into disrepute the institution which Prof Gray works for, which is an entity of the department of health.” 

Punishing children 

Regarding the statement about punishing children, Mkhize said it was not Gray's place to make such comments without being aware of the details, the advice and the process the department of basic education has followed.

“The department of basic education has been engaged in various consultations with its stakeholders on the correct approach to take in the process of opening schools.

“The minister has also presented the department’s strategy in the correct forums, and is exercising her executive powers based on information and evidence before her to recommend to government how to proceed,” said Mkhize.