9 April 2019

South Africa: At 50, the SA Medical Research Council Is Helping Redefine Democracy

opinion

The SA Medical Research Council, born 50 years ago as an instrument of apartheid and of mining and industrial capital, has transformed into a key institution of South Africa's democracy. And it has a crucial role to play in the country's future social and economic development.

The South African Medical Research Council turns 50 in 2019. Understandably, there is an expectation that this is an occasion for celebration - prompted by the SAMRC's longevity, the contributions it has made to the medical sciences and its importance today.

But to merely speak of celebrating 50 years would be a travesty as one can trace its genesis to the era of segregation, and the SAMRC straddles the years of apartheid and democracy. There are many other institutions in South Africa which straddle these years... But, as colonialism and apartheid were denials of our common humanity and as questions of health are so much intertwined with notions of human well-being and our understanding of humanity, the SAMRC's journey is no ordinary one. As such it is more important to reflect on the journey of the SAMRC as part of the journey we have undergone as a nation.

One important question which emerges from...

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