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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

During 2011: Appointments
2011-12-01

Dr Lis Lange: Senior Director: DIRAP

Description: 2011 Appointments_Lis Lange Tags: 2011 Appointments_Lis Lange

Dr Lis Lange, an Argentinean by birth, immigrated to South Africa twenty years ago – a few weeks after Nelson Mandela had walked through the gates of Victor Verster. For the past ten years, she has been involved in quality assurance for higher education institutions at the Council on Higher Education at national level.

She is assisting our university in the areas of quality assurance and academic planning, contributing to the development of deep intellectual debate and multi-disciplinary research.


Prof. Charles Dumas, Department of Drama and Theatre Arts

Description: 2011 Appointments_Charles Dumas Tags: 2011 Appointments_Charles Dumas

Prof. Charles Dumas, Extraordinary Professor in our Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, will be spending three months per year for the next three years at our university to help develop filmmaking, specifically focusing on the development of the Video Unit Planned for the Department.

Prof. Dumas started the year off with the production, Our Father’s Daughters, which was produced during the Mini-festival as well as at the Reitz Four reconciliation meeting. The production was also turned into a short film. Prof. Dumas gave film-acting classes to the third-year drama students. He directed multiple productions, such as the third-year module production Ipi Zombi, the Grahamstown Festival production, Seven Guitars and the Dance/drama production, Race, Reconciliation and the Reitz Four.


Prof. Daniel Plaatjies, UFS Business School

Description: 2011 Appointments_Daniel Plaatjies Tags: 2011 Appointments_Daniel Plaatjies

Prof. Daniel Plaatjies is the former Director and Head of the Graduate School of Public and Development Management at the University of the Witwatersrand. He was mainly responsible for the leading, directing and managing of strategic academic programmes, teaching, research, governance, service management and monitoring. Prof. Plaatjies, who was appointed as Visiting Professor at our Business School this year, will as part of his new duties at our Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, be lecturing part-time and supervise our PhD students.


Prof. Johann Neethling, Department of Private Law

Description: 2011 Appointments_Johann Neethling Tags: 2011 Appointments_Johann Neethling

Prof. Johann Neethling’s career is now completing its full circle with his appointment as Senior Professor in our Department of Private Law. In 1965 he was a first-year at this university. With his nine law text books and nearly 200 articles, together with 40 years’ experience in academic training he is of inestimable value to this Department. His publications contribute to the establishment of our university as a research institute.


Prof. Hussein Solomon, Department of Political Science

 Description: 2011 Appointments_Hussein Solomon Tags: 2011 Appointments_Hussein Solomon

Prof. Hussein Solomon joined our university this year as Senior Professor in the Department of Political Science. Formerly he worked in peace NGOs, advised diplomats and acts as a serving officer in the South African Air Force.

His area of research expertise includes conflict and conflict resolution in Africa; South African Foreign Policy; international relations theory; religious fundamentalism and population movements within the developing world. He is also the author of a number of books, including one on global jihad and one on India's secret relationship with apartheid South Africa.

He is also member of the internationally renowned Our Humanity in the Balance (OHIB) organisation, where his role is to bring these disparate communities together and to focus energies on a common project.


Prof. André Keet, International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice

Description: 2011 Appointments_Andre Keet Tags: 2011 Appointments_Andre Keet

Prof. André Keet, our Director of the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, joined the University of Pretoria on a part-time basis in 2008, whilst being a Commissioner on the Commission for Gender Equality. Later he left the Commission and joined the University of Fort Hare. “I was happy to join academia and now also serve on the Stellenbosch University Council; therefore I am very aware of the challenges facing higher education,” he said.

His vision for the Institute is to support higher-education transformation, promote non-discrimination, reconciliation and human rights, build national, regional and international networks, and developing ‘new’ languages, knowledge and discourses for reconciliation and social justice, all to the benefit of our university and South Africa.”


Prof. Helene Strauss, Department of English

Description: 2011 Appointments_Helena Strauss Tags: 2011 Appointments_Helena Strauss

Prof. Helene Strauss completed her PhD at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, where she taught courses on Film Studies, Children’s Literature and South African Literature and Culture. “I was subsequently appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.” She joined our Department of English this year.

Prof. Strauss has an on-going preoccupation with questions concerning social justice, race, gender and ethical interpersonal interaction in South Africa and beyond.


Prof. EC Ejiogu, Centre for Africa Studies

Description: 2011 Appointments_EC Ejiogu Tags: 2011 Appointments_EC Ejiogu

After 22 years in the United States of America, Prof. EC Ejiogu decided to return to Africa – to his roots – to join our university’s Centre for Africa Studies at the beginning of 2011.

Before joining the Centre, he was Assistant Research Professor in the Centre for Innovation at the University of Maryland, College Park. As Senior Researcher at the Centre, he has already helped with the streamlining of the academic programme, restructuring it to enable students to gain skills necessary to deliver a research proposal towards a dissertation after their three years of study. He has also taken up PhD and Master’s supervision.

His latest publications include a book published in March 2011 with the title, Roots of Political Instability in Nigeria, and a book co-edited with Prof. Kwandiwe Kondlo, Director of the Centre for Africa Studies, Africa in focus: Governance in the 21st century, published in April 2011.


Pura Mgolombane, Vice-Dean: Student Affairs

Description: 2011 Appointments_Pura Tags: 2011 Appointments_Pura

Bringing with him a decade of experience in Student Affairs our new Assistant-Dean for Student Life and Leadership, Pura Mgolombane, has big plans for student development. He says his office wants to help Kovsies increase its throughput rate and produce socially well-adjusted and employable graduates in South Africa, the continent and anywhere in the world.

Before joining Kovsies, he was employed as Director: Student Life, Governance and Culture at Walter Sisulu University. Pura, who has a background in Human Resources, Business Management and Corporate Law, says his academic training has empowered him with skills to ensure that the Student Life and Leadership is properly led, governed and managed.


Prof. Hasina Ebrahim, School for Social Sciences and Language Education

Description: 2011 Appointments_Hasina Ebrahim Tags: 2011 Appointments_Hasina Ebrahim

This former academic from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal was appointed as Associate Professor at our School for Social Sciences and Language Education in the Faculty of Education. Amongst others, she is the project coordinator for the Faculty’s Early Childhood and Foundation Phase Teacher Education Programme and the MEd and PhD supervisor in the programme.

Prof. Ebrahim is also the Deputy-President of the first South African Research Association for Early Childhood Education (birth to nine). “This is certainly a milestone to profile the university in terms of its thrust towards excellence in research,” she says. One of the main aims of the association is to shape the research agenda for a marginalised field in South Africa. 


Prof. Corli Witthuhn, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences

 Description: 2011 Appointments_Corli Witthuhn Tags: 2011 Appointments_Corli Witthuhn

Prof. Corli Witthuhn, a former Bloemfonteiner, attained her PhD in Microbiology at our university. Therafter, in 1999, she was appointed as a lecturer at Stellenbosch University and later as Vice-Dean.

Currently she is our Vice-Dean in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. She hopes to sustain her research here at our University.

Her life motto? “Opportunities are presented in the form of obstacles,” she says.
 


Prof. Melanie Walker

Description: 2011 Appointments_Melanie Walker Tags: 2011 Appointments_Melanie Walker

Prof. Melanie Walker is a prominent South African scholar who has been working as Professor of Higher Education Studies at the world-leading University of Nottingham in the UK, where she been Director of Postgraduate Students and a Director of Research in the Faculty of Social Sciences. She will join the University of the Free State in February 2012 as Senior University Professor in the Postgraduate School.

She is a graduate of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Cape Town, where she completed her PhD, after teaching in disadvantaged secondary schools for a number of years. Prior to working at Nottingham she worked at the Universities of Sheffield, West of England and Glasgow, as well as the Universities of Cape Town and the Western Cape. She is also a Fellow of the Human Development and Capability Association. She is currently Director of Research Training and a senior researcher in the EU-funded Marie Curie EDUWEL project, which includes senior researchers from eight European countries and 15 early-stage researchers.

With a long-standing commitment to social-justice research and equality practices, she is currently widely recognised internationally as leading in the application of the capability approach and human development to higher education policy and practice. Among others, she has led or participated in research projects funded by the NRF (South Africa), the Higher Education Academy (UK), HEFCE (UK), EU, and ESRC/DfID, which funded the Public-Good Professionals’ Capability Index research project. 
 

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