The Health Department has confirmed that Professor Salim Abdool Karim has stepped down from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on COVID-19, with effect from 23 March 2021.
His resignation is exactly one year since he chaired the committee.
Abdool Karim led a team of top scientists, who have been of support to the department, the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet.
According to the department, Abdool Karim presided over the MAC, which has positioned South Africa as one of the leading nations in the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The department described him as a trusted figure for many South Africans, with an ability to explain complex scientific concepts in simple terms that everyone could understand.
“The Minister is sure all South Africans will join us as we convey our deep appreciation to Prof Abdool Karim for his exceptional stewardship during one of the greatest crises faced by humanity.
“Throughout, he has remained focused, level headed, calm and compassionate, even under enormous pressure.”
Meanwhile, the department said Abdool Karim always received everyone with a warm smile and reassuring presence.
“We thank Professor Abdool Karim for answering the call to serve and remaining steadfast throughout his tenure as a leader in the fight against COVID-19.”
The Professor said it has been a “singular honour” to serve on the MAC alongside exceptional colleagues.
“After exactly one year, the time has come for me to return to my academic commitments. As I leave to refocus on HIV research, I know full well that advice on our COVID-19 response is in safe hands,” Abdool Karim wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
The department said Mkhize is grateful that Professor Marian Jacobs will continue to hold the fort as a co-chair for a few more months.
Jacobs, who is a Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town, assumed the position after the reconfiguration of the MAC on 14 September 2020.
The department believes that she has brought extensive experience and expertise by harnessing a prolific career in public health and health business leadership, spanning almost five decades.
Abdool Karim’s successor
Meanwhile, the Minister has since announced Professor Koleka Mlisana as Abdool Karim’s successor.
Mlisana, an eminent scientist and academic in her own right, is an incumbent of the MAC on COVID-19 as chair of the Pathology/Laboratory Sub-committee.
She also serves as a member of the MAC on Antimicrobial Resistance.
She holds the position of Executive Manager of Academic Affairs, Research and Quality Assurance at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) since July 2018.
Before this, she was the Medical Microbiology’s Head of Department at the UKZN/Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital and served a term as a member of the NHLS Board.
She has been an active HIV/AIDS researcher for over a decade, focusing on HIV prevention and pathogenesis, whilst working alongside Abdool Karim at the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA).