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20 August 2020 | Story Andre Damons | Photo Barend Nagel
Prof Motlalepula Matsabisa, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of the Free State (UFS), has been appointed as the chairperson of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicines for COVID-19.

Prof Motlalepula Matsabisa, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of the Free State (UFS), will lead Africa’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic with his appointment as chairperson of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicines for COVID-19.

Prof Matsabisa has been chosen over 25 other experts from 27 African countries to head this expert committee tasked with setting up research and clinical trials for COVID-19 and beyond. The committee is also supported by the African Union (AU), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC – Africa), and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).

This committee was established by the WHO and the Africa CDC on 22 July with the aim of providing independent scientific advice and support to countries on the safety, efficacy, and quality of traditional medicine therapies. It is also an effort to enhance research and development of traditional medicines for COVID-19 in Africa.

Looking forward

“This is a huge continental and global responsibility being laid on my shoulders as a chairperson.  I have to keep the committee together and ensure that it delivers on its set mandate and terms of reference.  I need to ensure that the committee helps the continent and region to get the scientific and legislative aspects on traditional medicine development on track.”  

“I have taken this position and responsibility, knowing quite well what it entails. I want to do this for the continent and for the sake of good science of all traditional healers and consumers of traditional medicines on the continent and beyond,” says Prof Matsabisa.

According to Prof Matsabisa, he is looking forward to working with a team of dedicated experts from 27 countries in the African region, and being of help to countries that need assistance with clinical trials, including preclinical work to move to clinical research.

Prof Matsabisa says he is also looking forward to countries asking South Africa to be part of their multi-centre studies in clinical trials for traditional medicines, and to help set up clinical trial teams that include Western-trained clinicians to get into traditional medicine studies. 

The work of the committee

According to Prof Matsabisa, his new position took effect the same day as his appointment and will run as long as COVID-19 is part of our daily lives and even beyond. It entails supporting member states to implement the WHO master plan for clinical trial protocols in order to generate credible data for COVID-19 results, based on traditional medicines. The committee will also coordinate support to member states in the African region to collaborate on clinical trials of traditional medicine-based therapies – elevating standards by pooling expertise in multicentre studies, as well as complying with GCP and good participatory practice guidelines for trials of emerging and re-emerging pathogens.
“The committee will also advise on strengthening the capacity of national medicine regulatory authorities to accelerate the issuance of marketing authorisations for traditional medicine products that have been well researched for safety, efficacy, and quality, as well as to expedite the approval of clinical trials on traditional medicines. This will help to meet the national registration criteria and the WHO norms and standards of quality, safety, and efficacy for the management of COVID-19 and others.”

“It will also provide independent scientific advice to the WHO and other partners regarding policies, strategies, and plans for integrating traditional medicines into COVID-19 responses and health systems,” explains Prof Matsabisa. 

Aiming for the top spot 

Prof Matsabisa has been described as having the third highest research output – something he is not satisfied with. 
“I was disappointed that only one point separated me from the second place. I will push for first place as this is my ultimate aim. My motivation for this is simple – I like what I am doing, I do not take it as a job but do it because I love research.”  

“I always like to tell students that we should be proud to one day see products in the shops that we can relate to and to which we have contributed or that we have made.   This is what drives me and my staff.  I have a beautiful team of students, staff, and postdoctoral fellows who share my vision of research.  We all have a shared vision and strive to be relevant at all times in science research, development, and teaching.”

• Prof Matsabisa was recently part of a national conference with the theme: Harnessing science, technology, and innovation in response to COVID-19: A national and international effort. The conference was hosted by Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, with Pres Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Prof Sarah Anyang Agbor, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, in attendance. 

News Archive

UFS staff get salary adjustment of 8,5%
2010-11-03

The University of the Free State’s (UFS) management and trade unions have agreed on a general salary adjustment of 8,5% for 2011. The negotiating parties agreed that adjustments could vary proportionally from a minimum of 7,5% to a maximum of 9,5%, depending on the government subsidy and the model forecasts.

 The service benefits of staff will be adjusted to 10,66% for 2011. This is according to the estimated government subsidy that will be received in 2011.

 The agreement was signed on Friday, 29 October 2010 by representatives of the UFS Management and the trade unions UVPERSU and NEHAWU.

An additional once-off, non-pensionable bonus of R3 000 will also be paid to staff with their December 2010 salary payment. The bonus will be paid to all staff members who were in the employment of the university on UFS conditions of service on 31 December 2010 and who assumed duties before 1 October 2010. The bonus is payable in recognition of the role played by staff during the year to promote the UFS as a university of excellence and as confirmation of the role and effectiveness of the remuneration model.

 It is the intention to pass the maximum benefit possible on to staff without exceeding the limits of financial sustainability of the institution. For this reason, the negotiating parties reaffirmed their commitment to the Multiple-year, Income-related Remuneration Improvement Model used as a framework for negotiations. The model and its applications are unique and have as a point of departure that the UFS must be and remains financially sustainable.

Agreement was reached that 2% will be allocated for growth in capacity building to ensure that provision is made for the growth of the UFS over the last few years. A further 0,16% will be allocated to structural adjustments.

 The implementation date for the salary adjustment is 1 January 2011. The adjustment will be calculated on the total remuneration package.

Prof. Johan Grobbelaar, Chairperson of the UVPERSU and NEHAWU mutual forum, is very pleased with the outcome and good spirit in which the negotiations, “that were concluded in a couple of hours”, took place. The 8,5% increase for 2011 means that for the past ten years the UFS staff has received a 38% increase above inflation in effect. 

 “Not only is this a major achievement in that the staff is much better off, but the salaries compare well with similar institutions in the country,” says Prof. Grobbelaar.

  It is also with nostalgia that the negotiations took place this year, because Prof. Grobbelaar and Prof. Niel Viljoen, Vice-Rector: Operations, both retire in 2011.  Prof. Viljoen was the chairperson of the UFS Council’s negotiation team for the past ten years.

  Media Release
 
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication (actg)
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl@ufs.ac.za
  3 November 2010
 

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